City acts on sea wrack fears

Taelor PeluseyBusselton Dunsborough Times
Port Geographe resident John Valentine demonstrated the wrack build-up.
Camera IconPort Geographe resident John Valentine demonstrated the wrack build-up. Credit: Sarah Ison

The City of Busselton has been given the go-ahead to begin redistributing thousands of cubic metres of sea wrack along Port Geographe after 150-odd residents descended on the council chambers with an impassioned plea for immediate action.

The packed-out gallery at Wednesday’s public access session deviated from the standard format, with Busselton City Mayor Grant Henley instead permitting residents to have their say without taking the stand.

One resident spoke of the increasing number of sinkholes and worried a child could fall in and be injured, or possibly killed.

Another woman highlighted an incident in Geraldton in which a 14-year-old girl fell into a similar wrack build-up, suffocated and needed to be revived.

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During the meeting, Cr Henley acknowledged concern but — given the Department of Transport was the managing body and could hold the City liable for any damages that resulted from unapproved actions — conceded lawful ways forward were limited.

However, Cr Henley yesterday revealed that while the DoT would not undertake works, it did not object to the City proceeding with “limited remediation of the beach on the basis of public safety concerns”.

“With this endorsement the City will, on this occasion, engage a contractor to redistribute the wrack as much as possible to reduce the height of the accumulation,” Cr Henley.

“The intention is to have these remedial works completed before Christmas.

“However, this is dependent on the availability of a suitable contractor and weather conditions.”

Resident representative Peter Maccora welcomed the good news.

“First of all we need to congratulate the councillors for taking this stance and backing the community,” he said.

“We also need to endeavour to make sure it doesn’t happen again next year by putting measures in place.”

Many residents believe the unnatural accumulation has worsened since the reconfiguration of coastal rock structures in 2015 — aimed at improving environmental and amenity outcomes — but estimations vary greatly between departments and those on the ground.

A DoT spokeswoman told the Times current levels were at 16,000cum but Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said earthmovers estimated a conservative compacted volume of 35,000cum and loose volume of about 45,000cum.

Despite the disparity, Ms Mettam welcomed the DoT’s approval but stressed the importance of a long-term approach and a “greater level of responsibility”.

“The outstanding issues relating to the EMMP (environment management and monitoring program) need to be addressed to avoid such a last-minute rushed response by the City being undertaken in the future,” she said.

Odour monitoring will be undertaken during works, and should hydrogen sulfide levels exceed appropriate safety thresholds, operations will stop.

Cr Henley said the City would continue lobbying on residents’ behalf “to ensure safety concerns relating to any future unnatural accumulation of wrack on this section of beach are addressed in the medium term until such time that the full benefit of the groyne reconfiguration is realised”.

The reconfiguration is expected to lessen the wrack over time.

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