August 11th 2009
Gone but not forgotten
While casuarinas and banyans at Nelly Bay beach continue to be washed out by high tides and storms and swimmers negotiate the rocky beach, while Council and the State governments are seeking a means of dealing with the very difficult problem without creating problems elsewhere, and while owners of waterfront property keep an anxious eye on the disappearing foreshore – it is worth looking back and wondering if we (and particularly our ‘representatives’) have learnt from history. A decade ago I wrote, and Magnetic Times published, a story about sand movement in Nelly Bay.
I quote word-for-word from the article, which appeared in the 12–25 February 1999 issue of the paper. As I wrote the story, I was looking at a copy of a review of the Nelly Bay Harbour proposal (at is still was then) done by the Marine Modelling Unit (MMU) of the School of Engineering at James Cook University. The review had been commissioned by Environment Australia, the commonwealth agency that eventually gave the tick to the development going ahead. The review was also available to the State government (which also had to, and did, sign off on the proposal) and to TCC, a strong advocate of the development.
The article quoted the MMU review thus: “The marina has altered the pattern of beach sediment transport in Nelly Bay ... there is some evidence that sand has begun to build up along the southwestern edge of the main breakwater. Because waves that will move this sand toward the southwest away from the marina no longer exist, sand will probably continue to move toward the marina. This change in sediment movement characteristics may cause loss of sand on the beach towards the middle of Nelly Bay, several hundred metres southwest of the marina”.
A stroll along Nelly Bay will demonstrate just how accurate the review was.
The article continued to quote the review: “...sediment movement into [the passage between the main breakwater and the mainland] may partially or completely block movement of water in and out of the marina”. This, I noted in the article, would ‘create the need for maintenance dredging. The cost of this would, in all probability, be borne by ratepayers’.
Again, those who witness the now annual sand dredging/replacement exercise by the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads on Nelly Bay will attest to the accuracy of the review. Many will remember how assertively this aspect was refuted by the the then Townsville City Council and Queensland government – until such time as they had to start moving the sand.
I write this now not to prove that I was correct (I was, after all only reporting on publicly available documents prepared for decision-makers by experts), nor to express my anger that our representatives chose to ignore inconvenient truths provided at taxpayers expense to advise on an important decision.
Sign of the times
I write to remind decision-makers to respect the opinions of experts (MMU and the IPCC, for example) when it comes to making decisions about other waterfront developments. The Townsville Overseas Terminal and Radical Bay spring instantly to mind.
And, in the case of Nelly Bay, it is not as if the ‘economic analysis’ done for the project – which forecast strong demand and benefits to the community, but which was described in court by experts as ‘useless’ – was anywhere close to the mark.
Story & photos: Wendy Tubman
To add your comment,
or read those of others, see below