Ballina council criticised for destroying seagrass for beach
An aquatic vet has criticised the dredging works at Shaws Bay, saying it destroyed an important patch of seagrass in the Richmond River in order to create a new beach.
Matt Landos, an associate researcher at Sydney University and adjunct senior lecturer at Charles Sturt University, said the seagrass was an important part of the aquatic environment.
Seagrass acts as an underwater forest, allowing small crustaceans and other animals to live protected.
"We've lost a significant amount of seagrass, a natural resource that is exotic and fascinating," he said.
"You could say it wasn't natural in Shaws Bay, because it is a man-made bay, but over time the seagrass found a place to survive in the river, and if you walk via the edge in Compton Drive and go where they have installed the new ramp, you will see that the sea grass has been covered up with sand," he said.
"The sand has been stacked in such an angle that it's sinking back down and covered the seagrass that was growing there."
The professional lamented the loss of the seagrass.
"We had this little fragment left and now, for the love of lying on a piece of sand, it's gone," he said.
"As if Ballina doesn't have enough pieces of sand to lie on.
"Did we have to go up there and create a piece of sand to lie on. Could you not have driven to Lighthouse Beach? Could you not have gone to the Serpentine? For the love of God, really?"
Mr Landos criticised the fact the work was paid by the Environmental Levy.
"What irks me the most is that we did it with $400,000 from the Environmental Levy, raised of ratepayers, which I participated in lobbying to put in place to restore the health of the Richmond River, and the money has been used to beautify and make places to sit on a beach, that have negative ecological consequence to the level of seagrass."
Kerri Watts, manager Public and Environmental Health at Ballina Shire Council, confirmed that sections of seagrass were destroyed as part of the project.
"There were several sections of seagrass that we were permitted to destroy.
"We had to pay an offset payment to the State Government for that, but also onsite, we had to have compensatory areas, so that over time we can encourage growth in those areas.
"We acknowledge that there was damage to some key habitat, but over time, our plan is to ensure there is more habitat in the future to ensure there is more seagrass population in areas where it can be protected.
"We are always open to discuss anything with the community."