Our iconic dunes at the southern entrance to Geraldton are under threat. For those that have not been following this issue there is actually two threats.
One is from a proposal to develop a residential housing estate across the area of the dunes that would see the sand dunes flattened.
The other is from the lime sand extraction operations currently occurring in the north-eastern section on Southgate Road.
While the issues are seemingly separate from each other, they do intersect when it comes to the north-easterly drift of the dunes that would impact on community infrastructure such as roads, drains and culverts, but also on houses as well. The original intent of the land development was primarily to halt this slow northern migration of the dunes.
The potential land development has been a threat for some considerable time now but hasn’t been realised due to the inability of the developers to get agreement from a number of government Departments, including Environmental Regulation, Planning and Transport. The Department of Lands (DoL) is also in the mix now because the developers have failed to commence the development, which required a land swap agreement with DoL for it to occur, in the original timeframe. This agreement was extended a number of times but I believe that it has since expired in 2014.
Back in 2009 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not agree to the development for environmental reasons that highlighted the significant impact on coastal erosion that would likely occur to beaches north of the development. It now appears that the Department of Environmental Regulation (DER) has seen fit to allow this to occur, regardless of the quite sensible view of the EPA.
The CGG has also refused to accept the recommendations from the Minister for Environment due to the poorly understood Aboriginal heritage in the area and the significant effect that any development will have on coastal erosion to the north. The CGG also refused to accept the requirement that they assume the responsibility for the foreshore dunes after 5 years. Acceptance of any or all of these conditions would most likely come at an enormous cost to the residents and ratepayers of Geraldton.
I fully support the City Councillors and the Mayor in their most recent refusal to accept these recommendations from the Minister for development of the dunes.
The lime sand extraction that occurs in the northern portion of the dunes is beneficial in that it actually removes the need for any land development over the dunes. Lime sand extraction operations remove the sand that would otherwise impact the public infrastructure at risk if nothing was done.
The threat here comes from the behaviour of the operator of the lime sand extraction business which is threatening the farming community that uses lime sand to increase their productivity. In breach of the permit and the boundary of the area in which lime sand can be taken, the operator has seen fit to flatten all of the fore-dune area right up to the water line. This must be considered as environmental vandalism at its worst and surely cannot go unpunished.
Any further lime sand extraction must be done in a responsible manner by an operator who is ready to observe all of the environmental and moral requirements.
This behaviour has also put at risk the ability for our Midwest farming industry to utilise this resource in a sustainable manner. This would also benefit the City of Greater Geraldton (CGG) by reducing the need to undertake expensive removal of the sand as it slowly migrated northeast.
But the CGG also has an obligation to ensure that this area is protected from over-exploitation and manage the dunes far better than it has previously.
The petition that I tabled in Parliament on behalf of the community will also bear fruit by allowing the community access to the public responses by the Ministers for Environment, Planning and Lands as part of the enquiry undertaken by the Environment and Public Affairs Committee.
Conversations that I have had with many people across Geraldton have also included their desire to have an entry statement for visitors to our wonderful City, but I’ve always thought that we had one already. There is nothing better than coming north on Brand Hwy, up over the hill to look across the Southgate dunes with the back beach, silos and Point Moore lighthouse in the background welcoming everyone.
Let’s all make sure that the dunes are protected from any future development and are kept as a recreational area for everyone for generations to come.