11 September 2019

Merimbula's Back Lake turns brown - again

| Ian Campbell
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Back Lake, March 18, 2018. Photo: Christine Kaine Facebook.

Back Lake, March 18, 2018. Photo: Christine Kaine Facebook.

This week’s heavy rain has again polluted the waters of Back Lake (Back Lagoon) in Merimbula with runoff from the Mirador housing estate on the slopes above.

A spokesperson for Bega Valley Shire Council’s planning and environment team says, “Council inspected the Mirador and Back Lake area on Monday, following heavy rain over the weekend, and identified that sediment had left the Stage 10 Mirador development site.”

Almost 90 mm had fallen on Merimbula by that point, a further 34 mm was recorded on Tuesday.

While unable to comment specifically on this matter, Bega based Marine and Freshwater Environmental Scientist, Nicholas Yee, of Elgin Associates says seagrass communities can be impacted.

“While they are resilient and can cope with some sedimentation under natural conditions, any type of catchment disturbance has the potential to cause sediment runoff during significant rainfall, and if the scale of sediment runoff is large enough or sustained, it can bury seagrass beds which can flow on to impact the marine environment more broadly.”

Promotional material for the housing estate invites people to “Secure your piece of the Sapphire Coast’s most highly anticipated subdivision and relax knowing you’ve become part of the select view.”

On Monday morning, that ‘select view’ was a chocolaty brown colour from Christine Kaine’s window on the southern side of the catchment, a dramatic shift from the brilliant aqua of the Mirador promotional material.

“It’s very disturbing to see this happen again,” Ms Kaine says.

“In my mind, the developer should be taking some responsibility for this.”

In early February, similar rain overran soil and water management controls within the subdivision. At that time, Council staff directed the contractor to repair the breaches and enhance the existing controls.

That has failed or hasn’t been done.

Back Lake at Short Point, Merimbula. Photo: Google.

Back Lake at Short Point, Merimbula. Photo: Google.

“Council has issued the contractor with a Prevention Notice under the Protection of the Environment and Operations Act,” Council’s spokesperson says.

“The order included a direction to immediately carry out works to address water runoff from the site and the stabilisation of disturbed areas.

“A meeting between Council staff and the developer identified immediate measures to be implemented and further action for longer-term soil and water management.

“Council will also be carrying out an audit of all individual construction sites within the Mirador area, and working with builders across the Shire to improve management of development sites.”

No fines have been issues at this stage, however, that option is one that could follow.

Stage 10 at Mirador features 36 lots ranging in size between 754 and 2,570 square metres. The development is backed by the Melbourne-based RCL Group, “a privately owned residential land developer holding a diversified portfolio of quality residential land projects across Australia and New Zealand.”

Region Media has approach RCL for comment.

Back Lake, March 20, after the lake was opened to the sea. Photo: Christine Kaine Facebook.

Back Lake, March 20, after the lake was opened to the sea. Photo: Christine Kaine Facebook.

On the back of rising water levels, Council opened Back Lake on Tuesday, with a muddy stream rushing out to sea.

“That would have had a flushing effect,” Mr Yee says “And may have stopped some of the suspended sediment from settling.”

Deputy Mayor, Mitchell Nadin says he’ll be taking the matter further at Council. “Where’s the incentive to follow any council DA consent conditions if there’s no punishment for breaking them?” he asks.

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Janet Reynolds5:52 pm 24 Mar 19

So terrible to see that beautiful lake in such a state. The aquatic life has to be affected resulting in ongoing problems. Residents must be extremely distressed. I imagine greed and cost cutting on behalf of Mirador must factor in this mess. Surely this type of possible environmental damage had to be considered in the planning of the development?

I’m sure the Council has an environment officer. The question is whether any one bothered to consult before approving development.

Stephen Grealy2:35 pm 22 Mar 19

“Fines are an option that could follow” – that is an appalling approach from a regulator. Developers certainly hold all the cards in Australia

Chris Boyton7:58 am 22 Mar 19

Oh hum once again the lack of real erosion protection measures n
The now disbanded Lakes and Foreshore Cotten pointed out problems with earlier stages of Mirador development to the then Shire Administrator Mr Calvert following similar events that impacted on both Back lake and Merimbula Lake

Measures were taken then to reduce impact of poor clearing practices and stop highly acidic aluminium loaded soil impacting on the marine environment
Where was BVSC when the land was cleared- very steep highly erodible souls?

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