Approach to restore waterways identified

Taelor PeluseyBusselton Dunsborough Times
A range of initiatives have been undertaken to improve the lower Vasse River. Dr Robyn Paice hopes theses curtains will lead to a better understanding of algal blooms.
Camera IconA range of initiatives have been undertaken to improve the lower Vasse River. Dr Robyn Paice hopes theses curtains will lead to a better understanding of algal blooms. Credit: Busselton-Dunsborough Times, Taelor Pelusey

Reports into the lower Vasse River and Toby Inlet have identified several ways to restore the degraded waterways, but “significant and consistent” funding will be required — with ratepayers likely needed to lead the charge.

Busselton City Council adopted draft management plans for the lower Vasse River and Toby Inlet at Wednesday night’s council meeting and they will soon go out for public consultation.

Among a range of actions to improve flow, reduce sediment and nutrients, and reconnect the highly modified waterways is the Living Streams approach for the lower Vasse.

It would see the creation of habitats such as seasonal dry areas, river pools, channels, floodplain areas, riffle zones and islands, both floating and grounded.

The approach is expected to greatly improve the river’s health, which has been on the decline since European settlement, but would cost more than $2 million.

The City of Busselton has committed an annual $100,000 to the overarching Revitalising Geographe Waterways program until 2024.

However, in a report to councillors, City senior sustainability/environment officer Dr Robyn Paice said an alternative model might be needed when that agreement expired to guarantee “significant and consistent” funding.

“The inconsistent, insecure and often project — rather than program — based funding approaches common to natural resource management are unlikely to provide that,” she wrote.

“If the local community wants to see that change, however, it is likely that that the local community will need to make a substantial commitment itself, which would support a base level of activity and leverage other funds.”

City planning and development services director Paul Needham said it was not clear what kind of investment would be needed yet but the community and State Government would be consulted.

In 2014, the Vasse Ministerial Taskforce was formed to serve as a lead management body and the Revitalising Geographe Waterways program developed.

Royalties for Regions, the State’s Infill Sewer Program, the operational budgets of State agencies, particularly the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, and local governments have made substantial investment into the programs over the years.

Mr Needham said there had been “much needed” and “measurable” change but there was still a long way to go.

“The City is and will continue to advocate strongly for a continued State Government commitment, and our long-term financial plan also makes provision for continued commitment by the City and our ratepayers,” he said.

Last week, the City installed separation devices in the lower Vasse in order to better understand algal blooms, as reported by the Times.

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