GIPPSLAND Ports CEO Nick Murray has rejected claims that the authority’s dredging works have contaminated Port Welshpool beach.
Port Welshpool landowner Roger Harvey – who is championing a petition to see the town’s beach replenished – spoke at a South Gippsland Shire Council public submission session last Wednesday (July 25), telling councillors that Gippsland Port’s “very poorly executed” dredging works some years back had damaged the potential tourist hotspot.
“The dredged material from harbor area was basically dumped onto the beach and covered over. That’s now become exposed. Even at the time I remember this petroly, oily stuff,” he said. “It was quite horrible. It’s all become exposed again and is there for everyone to see. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s become quite contaminated, given where it came from.”
Mr Murray said Mr Harvey’s claims that Gippsland Ports’ dredging work was substandard, or the material sourced from Lewis Channel was in any way contaminated, are “unsubstantiated”.
“If correctly reported, these unsubstantiated and quite irresponsible assertions are strongly refuted by Gippsland Ports,” Mr Murray said.
“The sediment sampling report was undertaken by an independent third party in 2003 that informed the application by Gippsland Ports to the relevant agencies for the requisite permits and consents to undertake both dredging and beach renourishment.”
He said all contaminate measures were below the allowable maximum concentrations set out by the EPA.
“The renourishment of the beach and the rehabilitation was undertaken in accordance with the conditions of all relevant permits, with Gippsland Ports expending considerably more on rehabilitation than originally budgeted,” Mr Murray said.
“Gippsland Ports prides itself as being an environmentally responsible agency with a very positive record, substantiated by independent audit, of its dredging and related activities.”
South Gippsland Shire Council has backed Mr Harvey’s petition, voting at its general meeting to, among other things, provide “a copy of the petition to Gippsland Ports, the Committee of Management for the subject land and to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), the public land manager” and request “that Gippsland Ports and DELWP consider opportunities to replenish this recreational asset when planning for future dredging activities or improvements to the shipping channel”.
Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien said he would table the petition in State Parliament.
Despite rejecting Mr Harvey’s pollution claims, Mr Murray said Gippsland Ports would happily do what it could to help improve the Port Welshpool beach.
“Gippsland Ports notes the advice, via the agency of the The Mirror, of South Gippsland Shire Council’s deliberations in relation to the Port Welshpool foreshore and of a petition,” Mr Murray said in a statement.
“Gippsland Ports has not been approached on this subject by the petitioner, South Gippsland Shire Council or anyone else, and until receipt of the advice from the The Mirror, was unaware of the petition.
“Having been now apprised of this advice, Gippsland Ports is pleased to confirm its support for South Gippsland Shire Council’s and the community’s aspirations to improve the amenity of the Port Welshpool foreshore.”
Mr Murray said the “enhancement of this precinct would add to the attraction of the area and will complement the rehabilitation of the Port Welshpool Long Jetty, being managed by Gippsland Ports, which is well advanced and progressing on schedule”.
“Whilst Gippsland Ports has not received any formal approach from South Gippsland Shire Council, or other agencies, it will be pleased to consider foreshore renourishment in the event Gippsland Ports undertakes any future dredging of the shipping channels within Corner Inlet,” Mr Murray said.
“It should be noted that beach renourishment does not fall within Gippsland Ports’ remit, however, Gippsland Ports will seek to assist the responsible agencies wherever possible.
“If and when Gippsland Ports is approached to assist either South Gippsland Shire Council or other agencies as the proponents of beach renourishment, consideration will include undertaking analysis of the suitability of any material proposed to be used to replenish the beach, in accordance with the normal protocols and permits for this type of work, and secondly, establishing a funding source to provide for any work to be undertaken.”