OPINION: Some historical perspective on dredging and the Myall River

DEAR News Of The Area,

MIDCOAST Council recently held a community conversation session at Hawks Nest, hosted by the Mayor and attended by Council Directors.

Many subjects were discussed by the respective Directors including dredging of the Lower Myall.

It was disturbing to hear that senior management believes the eastern entrance to the system was only dredged to provide sand for the protection of Jimmys Beach.

That may have been true for the most recent dredge in 2019 however gave the impression that previous dredging had never happened.

We believe that impression needs clarification and we felt a little history may assist.

Council should be aware that the system was suffering badly and that we were experiencing fish disease, murky water etc and by 2008 we began an awareness program which resulted in a dredging campaign in 2015.

That provided a reversion to our pristine condition for a short period and a further campaign was conducted in 2019.

The eastern or natural channel faces the open sea and provides fresh oceanic waters into the system.

Until the early 1900s it remained the only maritime access to Tea Gardens and the Lakes.

That changed in 1909 when the Corrie creek was dredged to provide quicker access for the timber exporters and became the only western flowing channel on the east coast.

It subsequently became the official navigation channel.

The eastern channel remained the main access for both recreational and commercial vessels and was dredged regularly until 1998 when it ceased due financial constraints.

The subsequent closure is the result of sand migration within the Port and the outcome of a series of errors made by our predecessors.

This has resulted in the system now receiving waters sourced from the back of the Port and the subsequent loss of salinity which has resulted in a change in marine life, loss of seagrass and dying mangroves.

Sand migration has continued up river and now causing difficulty in navigation for larger sea craft and safety issues for the recreational visitors.

Studies by the Maritime Infrastructure Delivery Office have confirmed this migration has occurred and should be remedied.

This is not only an issue for the local community.

We are the North Shore of Port Stephens, approximately seven times bigger than Sydney Harbour and the entrance to one of the largest world heritage National Parks within the southern hemisphere.

It has a visitor population of in excess of 100,000 per annum.

Tourism alone brings an amount of $60 million to local business houses and a ferry trade averaging 1500 passengers a week.

Tea Gardens is a designated east coast sea port.

The State Government is obligated to ensure safe and permanent access.

It is our contention that the eastern entrance regains its position as a permanent navigation channel.

Our State Member, Kate Washington has taken the matter to the notice of the respective Ministers and is hopeful of a quick and satisfactory outcome.

Myall River Action Group.

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