The Fraser Coast Waterbody Management Strategy will assist council to sustainably manage our 50 waterbody systems.
The Fraser Coast Waterbody Management Strategy will assist council to sustainably manage our 50 waterbody systems.

Fish kills, problem birds, weeds: New plan needed for waterways

Declining water quality, fish kills, algal blooms and hydraulic failures at local waterways has prompted constant calls for council intervention for many years.

Now, the council has responded with its new plan to address these issues, signing off on the Fraser Coast Waterbody Management Strategy.

Anembo Lakes at Torquay (referred to as the Lowlands Lagoon in the council report) and Ululah Lagoon in Maryborough were used as pilot sites to determine what action needed to be taken.

Significant testing of soil and water and assessments of different sections were carried out before each area was classified into a category in terms of risk and priority.

The upfront cost to address immediate issues at the two trial sites was estimated at $75,000.

The report notes that the cost of the reactive approach is likely to be far higher than a more proactive approach going forward where issues are identified before they worsen.

It states that as the trustee of council-owned and managed drain reserves and waterbodies there’s an expectation the council will facilitate the conservation of these reserves for the benefit of the community and residents living around them.

It’s also noted in the report that while the council had continued to manage reserves to meet their drainage function and maintain usable spaces, there’s been a “continued and repeated history of requests for council works within waterbodies, as well as a history of illegal damage to waterbody edge and buffer vegetation”.

More than 1200 viewed the survey while the strategy was being developed and 266 responded.

The council voted to adopt the strategy in Wednesday’s meeting meaning the learnings from the trial sites will now be used to manage 50 plus relevant waterways.

Nuisance water bird populations will be managed to improve the health of waterbodies across the region under the plan.

“The Fraser Coast Waterbody Management Strategy will assist council to sustainably manage our 50 waterbody systems,” Cr Zane O’Keefe said.

“Community feedback confirmed that public understanding of waterbody management is divided.

“Some residents see the waterbodies as lakes and want them to be cleaned of water plants and have mown grass up to the waterline.

“Unfortunately, in some instances trees and shrubs around the lagoons and reeds along the water edge have been destroyed.

“The water plants within and around waterbodies play a crucial role in waterbody health.

“The new strategy seeks to manage waterbodies as part of the stormwater system, while considering residents’ expectations.

“Management priorities have considered the waterbody condition as well as its values to the community.

“They have to work as stormwater detention basins as well as waterbodies which are havens for wildlife in suburbia.”

The strategy identified the following key practices which will help improve the region’s waterbodies:

  • Establish and maintain terrestrial and aquatic plants around and within waterbodies;
  • Ensure waterbody edges are safe;
  • Treat and remove pollutants from stormwater before it enters a waterbody;
  • Use aquatic weed harvesting to target declared aquatic weeds;
  • Manage nuisance waterbird populations to reduce nutrient inputs, by discouraging waterbird feeding and reducing weed trees overhanging water;
  • Consider opportunities to fill isolated pockets/stagnant areas, reduce waterbody depth to increase flushing and water turnover, and create wetlands in shallow waterbody areas.
  • Dredging or deepening waterbodies were identified as practices to be avoided due to high costs and environmental impacts (such as disturbing sediment and difficulty in rehabilitate.
  • To avoid potential public health risks due to fluctuating water quality, aquatic recreation and water extraction will continue to be restricted.

“Historically council has dealt with waterbody management issues individually as they arose,” Cr O’Keefe said.

“Generally, urban waterbodies tend to decline in condition overtime, so we needed the strategy to inform future management.

“A well-designed waterbody can add value to the urban landscape in terms of visual amenity and wildlife habitat.”

“We also need to have guidelines in place so that when waterbodies are handed over to council as assets from new developments that they meet set standards, so ratepayers do not inherit huge ongoing management costs.

The strategy and management plans for the Ululah Lagoons and Lowlands Lagoons (Anembo Lakes) will soon be available on the publications page of the council website

Originally published as Fish kills, problem birds, weeds: New plan needed for waterways