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Gold Coast dredging plan just a drop in the ocean

by Jeni Bone on 25 Sep 2012
Gold Coast Broadwater - just one of the dredging issues on the Gold Coast. .. ©
There has been mixed response to the Queensland government’s announcement that it will implement a $1.8 million dredging program of the Coomera river on the Gold Coast, with some quarters of industry welcoming the move and others pointing out that it’s nowhere near enough to support the local marine economy.

While some industry proponents claim dredging will help attract larger yachts to facilities like the Gold Coast City Marina for refit and repairs, generating as much as $60 million over the next two to three years and creating as many as 500 new jobs, others observers are less convinced.

Director of the Gold Coast City Marina and Shipyard at Coomera, Ryan Leigh-Smith said the industry had been lobbying the State Government since 1998 for the river to be dredged to 3.5m at low tide so that vessels up to 1500 tonnes could get to their shipyards.

'We have all the cranes and the facilities ready and waiting to handle 1500-tonne vessels, but we have been hamstrung by a lack of access,' he told local media. 'This dredging program is great, great news for our industry and the Gold Coast.'

Don Jones, CEO of Marine Queensland said dredging on the Gold Coast is something that requires 'planning and coordination', not a piecemeal approach.

'The solution lies in holistic management not piecemeal approaches like focusing on the Coomera River only. The greatest economic benefit can only be achieved this way.'

Jones referred to the history of dredging on the Gold Coast: 'The problem prior to the establishment of the Gold Coast waterways group (now being formalised into an Authority sometime in November) is that there was little planning and virtually no coordination. The result was once where only problems that were seriously impacting navigation were addressed. All of this was pretty ad hoc.

'When the Gold Coast Waterways group was established, industry argued for a much more coordinated and planned approach. To achieve this three areas of focus were established:

1. Dredging and sand management;
2. Foreshore and marine destinations;
3. Planning and major projects.

'With these areas of focus established for nearly two years now there has been much more achieved for the Gold Coast region in a holistic sense. For example, using dredge spoil (mainly sand) for beach nourishment thereby saving Council many millions of dollars while making navigation much safer and effective. There are many, many other examples as well.

'The idea of undertaking planned works to foster economic and industry development has also been a priority. That is why we have been strongly advocating the Broadwater Master Plan and looking at ways where dredging can be done in a way where channels become self-maintaining. This then free up funds for other key infrastructure works that directly benefits the marine industry, tourism and all the other industries that rely on well planned and managed waterways.'
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