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Byron Shire
June 2, 2023

Dredging rivers: what are the Ballina candidates’ positions?

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A recent Meet the Candidates evening in Ocean Shores saw discussion around how to manage local river systems, which have silted up over generations, and likely contributed to the high flood levels experienced in 2022.

The Nationals recently released a plan to dredge NSW rivers, saying, ‘regular dredging will provide long-term benefits to the state’s waterways, particularly after flooding events seen over the past 12 months’.

The press release says, ‘A Strategic Business Case for the Long-Term Navigational Dredging Program has been developed by Transport for NSW, which examined the various options for delivery of a state-wide program, concluding that an out-sourced, long-term contract with private dredging operators in NSW would achieve best value-for-money’.

‘The Long-Term Navigational Dredging Program is a Transport for NSW-led initiative, involving the Centre for Maritime Safety and the Maritime Infrastructure Delivery Office’.

The Echo asked Labor what their plan is to address the silt in the region’s rivers, given it exacerbates floods.

Labor candidate Andrew Broadley replied, ‘The Richmond River has the poorest water quality of any river in NSW, and a major effort is needed in the coming decade to address poor water quality and loss of fish habitat’.

‘Upstream dredging will do little to impact flooding, but will exacerbate this poor water quality. The maintenance of the drainage network is a very different issue. Drains need clearing to maintain their basic function, and the LNP government have failed our community through a complete lack of funding and unreasonable approvals processes, despite the pleas of local councils.

‘This has particularly impacted the Ocean Shores and Ballina communities. Dredging the mouth of the rivers will improve safety for boats, but also poses considerable risk to Ballina and Brunswick Heads from increasing tidal water inflows.

‘This needs careful investigation, and must be based on the detailed work currently being conducted by the CSIRO’.

Independent candidate, Kevin Loughrey, told The Echo he supports dredging of the Richmond River. 

‘Various parts of the Richmond River should be continuously dredged, to ensure that floodwaters are not obstructed when travelling to the ocean.

‘This is particularly the case with the mouth of the river’.

He also said, ‘The report on the Tuckombil Canal [in Woodburn] should be freely available to the public. There is no excuse for this secrecy.’

Loughrey also supports a network of rain gauges and water-level gauges in catchment areas.

The list of Loughrey’s suggestions for mitigating floods is on www.echo.net.au.

Greens MP, Tamara Smith, told The Echo, ‘The Greens see river and estuarine health as part of larger catchment ecosystems’.

‘We recognise that acid-sulphate soil run off, unfenced cattle, and over- development are all contributors to poor river health. Tidal river silting must be managed as part of a larger catchment approach.’

No reply was received from the Sustainable Australia party candidate, Peter Jenkins.

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  1. In 2017 there was an article in the ECHO stating that funding had been approved to dredge the Richmond River on a regular basis. I would like to know what has happened to this money. The River still remains clogged with sand. People are still concerned that further catastrophic flooding will occur again and again, if this silting problem is not addressed NOW.


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