Community groups have raised concerns about plastic debris from damaged swimming enclosures at Wilson Beach and Dingo Beach. Picture: Supplied
Community groups have raised concerns about plastic debris from damaged swimming enclosures at Wilson Beach and Dingo Beach. Picture: Supplied

Debris from disintegrating enclosures ‘completely ignored’

ENVIRONMENTAL groups are calling on Whitsunday Regional Council to take action on damaged swimming enclosures, saying the disintegrated structures are taking a toll on the reef.

The Dingo Beach and Wilson Beach swimming enclosures were damaged in Cyclone Debbie and have sat in disrepair since.

Concerned Wilson Beach resident Brett Tait said the nets were falling apart, causing debris to drift into the ocean.

He argued the damaged netting was impacting turtles and birdlife as well as boat owners, saying some pieces of debris measured more than two and a half metres long.

"The excuses are pretty weak to not actually do something to remove that real risk to the marine environment," he said.

"Everyone we've spoken to at Dingo Beach and at Wilson Beach are quite happy to see something done eventually after nearly three and a half years.

"Everyone's a little bit sick and tired of it."

The enclosure at Wilson Beach was damaged during Cyclone Debbie and has sat unrepaired since. Picture: Supplied
The enclosure at Wilson Beach was damaged during Cyclone Debbie and has sat unrepaired since. Picture: Supplied

Mr Tait said he contacted the council about the issue, but little action had been taken to stop marine debris coming off the damaged enclosures.

Tangaroa Blue Foundation CEO Heidi Tait also raised concerns about the nets, saying it was important for the community to do everything they could to reduce marine debris.

"The Wilson Beach and Dingo Beach swimming enclosures are both a source of plastic pollution that impacts the Great Barrier Reef," she said.

"It disappointing that the Whitsunday council, although it is a Reef Guardian Council, chooses not to acknowledge the impacts of plastic on the reef or prevent further loss from these damaged council assets."

Whitsunday Regional Council natural resource management and climate coordinator Scott Hardy said officers were aware of the issue and had been monitoring both sites.

This year's council budget includes $350,000 for the renewal of the Wilson Beach enclosure.

 

Tangaroa Blue CEO Heidi Tait with waste collected off Mackay Harbour beach including labels from foreign-owned water bottles and industrial tags. Ms Tait urged the council to take action on the nets at Wilson and Dingo Beach. Picture: Heidi Petith
Tangaroa Blue CEO Heidi Tait with waste collected off Mackay Harbour beach including labels from foreign-owned water bottles and industrial tags. Ms Tait urged the council to take action on the nets at Wilson and Dingo Beach. Picture: Heidi Petith

Mr Hardy said before the enclosures were fixed, the council had to get approvals from the state government before going out to tender.

He said some of the oyster mesh on the Wilson Beach enclosure had been removed this week and officers would continue to keep an eye on the structures.

"We've been monitoring it for a number of months," he said.

"It looks like quite recently the condition of the oyster mesh has declined, maybe it's spring tides or something that have impacted it.

"We do care about the environment and we don't want to see any environmental impacts … it's just that we need to follow processes to make sure that jobs are done right in accordance with permits."

While Mr Hardy said he was aware of the community's concerns, the council did not have any plans to fully remove the oyster mesh.

"We don't see the oyster mesh as impacting the reef," he said.

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"We are monitoring the condition of the oyster mesh and we realise the condition of the swimming enclosures at the moment isn't usable so we realise that we need to do work to fix it."

However, Mr Tait argued with cyclone season on the way, action needed to be taken now.

"Whitsunday (council) is a Reef Guardian Council that has chosen to ignore the issue," he said.

"The amount of plastic that has been lost is quite incredible and if that was in Airlie Beach, it would be acted on very quickly and it would be removed from public view.

"We're coming into another cyclone season, it hasn't been addressed again and if a cyclone comes through again this year we're going to see all of that structure completely removed and that plastic is going to be back on the reef," he said.

"In this particular case it's just completely ignored."


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