Sedimentation of the Margaret River a cause for concern

Taelor PeluseyAugusta Margaret River Times
Ashton Street development
Camera IconAshton Street development

The Shire of Augusta-Margaret River has been urged to look to other tourism hotspots leading the environmental charge as its capacity to comply with its own regulations comes under scrutiny and concerns are raised over the health of the Margaret River.

Conservationist Rick Ensley flagged concerns about poor quality water running off nearby developments and into the river during last week’s Augusta-Margaret River Shire council meeting.

He questioned whether the council was satisfied with developers’ environmental compliance and asked if enough funds were being allocated to monitoring activities.

Mr Ensley later told the Times the Shire should be looking to other local governments across Australia, such as Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Noosa, which he said were far better resourced in terms of environmental protection.

“(The developments) are just right there above the Margaret River, which we always tout as pristine, advertisable world iconic destination type stuff, and then we’re just pouring a bunch of sediment into it — I’m just over it,” he said.

“Although we speak about economic development ... why are we all here? How do we make money off the place? Because it’s beautiful, it’s all fresh air out there. There’s nothing like the air we have here.”

Other issues raised by Mr Ensley concerning the river included a lack of action on pollutant traps proposed for the rain garden, rock diversions in the bypass channel, and foreshore plans developed in 2010 and 2016 that had not been implemented.

Nature Conservation Margaret River Region executive officer Caroline Hughes acknowledged river sedimentation as “a significant issue each year which appears to be getting worse with the severity of weather events and the level of development in the region”.

“We understand the Shire has some capacity to manage the environmental impact of development, however these issues are not entirely in their hands,” she said.

“With the increased funding available for the environment through the Environmental Management Fund, Nature Conservation would support the Shire directing funds to further investigate the sedimentation problem and implement appropriate solutions in order to better protect the health of the Margaret River.”

Rain garden
Camera IconRain garden

The Times understands sedimentation of waterways is problematic because it can upset the food web, reduce light penetration and in turn impede photosynthesis, and can lead to the death or extinction of species.

Notes on river management from the Department of Water advises if sedimentation caused by human activities exceeds what would naturally occur, it can place “serious stresses on watercourses and associated habitats".

Margaret River Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Rebecca Young told the Times “there’s no question that the environment is the backbone of many small businesses and maintaining its health is vital for the local economy”, and said environmental responsibility was a priority for the Chamber.

Retirement village development
Camera IconRetirement village development

Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association and the Shire were unable to respond to the Times’ request for comment by deadline.

Shire officers will prepare a written response to Mr Ensley’s concerns for the next council agenda.

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