Friends of Gulf St Vincent

The Friends' principal aim is to:
Foster a unified community approach
to the protection and wise use of
the Gulf of St Vincent
Dredging Activities in Gulf St Vincent
When we heard of the proposal to deepen Outer Harbor, we sought assurances from the South Australian Government and from the Development Assessment Commission that the work would be done consistent with the EPA guidelines for dredging.

We were not asking for anything new or special.

Those Guidelines were first prepared by the Statutory Committee, established in 1992 under the SA Marine Environment Protection Act.

That Committee (of 8), included nominees of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry/Employers Federation, Chamber of Mines and Energy, Local Government Association, Fishing Industry Council and Minister of Fisheries.

As part of its consultation with the public, that Committee nominated turbidity from dredging as one of 4 highest priority pollutants.

With public support for this ranking, the Committee prepared its dredging guidelines, which are now the EPA guidelines.

We have been asked how it came about that business interests actively promoted these guidelines.

Business representatives saw that it was in the interests of a wide range of businesses to expect that a development proposal would have reasonable likelihood of receiving technical approval, in reasonable time.

The package supported by business was that if developers proposed development that involved dredging, the dredging could be approved subject to best practice environmental guidelines, and it need not impede the rest of planning approval.

And that is how it worked for virtually all dredging work in South Australia until the proposal for the work at Outer Harbor. The guidelines had bipartisan political support, and delivered quick approval to the developer - provided they complied with the guidelines.

For example - this applied to development of new marinas around South Australia, some tricky dredging of contaminated material at Port Pirie, a variety of routine maintenance works, and the delivery of sand to the metropolitan beaches from the O’Sullivan Beach area.

These South Australian guidelines fit within national guidelines.

They are consistent with what is known as the 1996 Protocol to the London Dumping Convention - the international convention on dredging and dumping materials.

Australia is a ‘contracting party’ to that Convention. The 1996 Protocol changed the way countries were to treat dredged material, with emphasis now on assessing the material for beneficial use ashore.

In the local context - given that most of what we think of as the town area of Port Adelaide was won from the bottom of the Port River - this would be a continuation of long standing local practice.

What appears to have happened with the Outer Harbor work was that the applicant virtually said ‘Thank you, we will take that quick approval - but would you mind waiving the guidelines’. And they were waived.

It has been difficult to determine just why they were waived. Statements on behalf of the applicant to the Development Assessment Commission suggested that to bring the material ashore would cost something in the range of $30 to $60 per cubic metre. These statements seem to have been taken at face value by regulatory agencies.

Statements at the end of the work spoke of removing 3 million tonnes of material for a total cost of $45 million.

All these numbers are at odds with the report of the Coast Protection Board (to a Senate Committee) that they delivered 600 000 cubic metres of sand from around Port Stanvac to Brighton beach for just under $5 per cubic metre.

How is it that supposedly more efficient private enterprise can claim that it would cost about 10 TIMES that amount to bring material ashore

- and not be challenged?

Nor did this make allowance for value of materials that might be reused, or for the environmental benefits from knowing that highly invasive weeds would not proliferate in our Gulf.

The Outer Harbor work has finished. The silt it has deposited inshore along metropolitan Adelaide will reduce amenity, and seagrass survival, probably for several years.

That cannot be undone.

Dredging continues off the Patawalonga and West Beach. The guidelines were not applied to those operations initially, because they were classed as ‘temporary’. After several years, common sense tells us this dredging is permanent, and should be subject to standard environmental controls to reduce turbidity in the inshore waters - where turbidity does most damage to seagrasses.

The 'Friends of Gulf St Vincent' ask all political parties to restore bipartisan application of the dredging guidelines, - which, we say again, were proposed by business, supported by business, for efficiency in the process of development approvals.

Those guidelines deliver good environmental outcomes for South Australians - especially those with businesses along the metro coast.

Friends of Gulf St Vincent

President - Ms Pat Harbison
Vice President - Mr Jim Douglas
Secretary - Mr Ian Kirkegaard

March 1 2006

Last modified 14th August 2006.