Lives will be lost on the Ballina bar if it is not dredged soon, according to Fishermen’s Co-operative member Garry Joblin.
Lives will be lost on the Ballina bar if it is not dredged soon, according to Fishermen’s Co-operative member Garry Joblin. Contributed - Meg Luckie

Dredging only way to make Ballina bar safe, says fisher

BALLINA fisherman Garry Joblin says regular dredging is the only thing that will make the Richmond River bar safe again.

At a meeting of the Ballina Dredging Taskforce yesterday, he said the river and North Creek had changed dramatically since dredging stopped in the 1970s.

"I remember as a kid we would go mud crabbing in North Creek and there would be 60-foot (18m) holes," he said.

"One of those holes is now only 15 foot (4.5m) deep.

"The water just isn't flowing well anymore.

"I have fished this port all of my life ... the only thing that will work is to start dredging again and maintain it.

"Otherwise we are fighting a losing battle because there is just so much sand moving around."

A long-awaited draft dredging feasibility study was released by the Department of Primary Industries earlier this year.

It found that dredging a 100m-wide channel with a 4m depth clearance at low tide "would satisfy all stake holders" and would require about 20,000cu m of sand to be dumped.

It could cost up to $5 million a year. But members of the dredging taskforce believe the department should investigate other options, such as deeper dredging that might only need to be done about once a year.

The taskforce will provide feedback to the department on the feasibility study.

Marine Rescue Ballina skipper, Duncan Woodhead, said he was concerned about whether ongoing funding would be provided for dredging.

"There are a lot of boats out there who don't even look at Ballina because of its bad reputation," he said.

"We are talking about boats worth $20-$30 million and they need work done.

"There is a lot of money floating around that could be coming into Ballina."

One of the suggestions that will be made to the DPI is to do a pilot dredge of the Ballina bar and record data on how long it takes the sand to come back.

Other options could be to extend the North Wall.

But Mr Woodhead said something had to be done.

"We are going to have people killed on that bar," he said.



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