October 17th 2006
Gustav facelift set to move upstream
Last saturday morning an interesting and important planning workshop was held on Gustav Creek in Nelly Bay. It was organised by Greening Townsville and consultant, John Gunn from Earth Environmental to enable residents whose properties back on to the watercourse to contribute ideas and approaches as to how best to continue with the Gustav Creek Catchment Management Plan, above Barton Street bridge, following the dramatic changes made below the bridge earlier this year.
As the restoration of this major Island watercourse is likely to have a beneficial effect on the property prices of the adjoining properties it was surprising that attendance was fairly low. There was, however, broad agreement on a strategy to attack the massive infestations of Singapore daisy which was, according to resident and member of Gustav Creek Catchment Care (the amalgam group established to involve residents and Island community groups in the project), Bruce Williams, introduced as a bank stabilising plant in the 1970s.
As the creek is near to or part of the boundary for many residents it was seen as vital that as many property owners be involved as possible - even it were only to give their nod of approval for the work.
The group wandered the reaches between the Barton and Elena Street Bridges and an area above Elena Street where the weeds have caused massive amounts of decomposed granite sand (much of which came from the 1998 landslide), to be held in the bed of the stream. The effect over time is to cause deep cuttings where the water moves around little islands of weeds. This in turn has a potential to impact on the banks of the creek and create future problems for residents whose yards abut the watercourse.
Bruce Williams told magnetictimes.com, "Gustav Creek is a lot more than the wonderful views one receives in crossing its three bridges.
"The ecology of Nelly Bay has evolved with the nutrients and fresh water flow from this creek, which is the largest on Magnetic Island, and lies in the most populous bay.
"In the time I have lived in Nelly Bay, I have seen the arrival of three stressors to the creek: Sewage and other effluent, accelerated sand discharge and more human activity. The last of these stressors is inevitable, the others are not. The whole ecosystem of Nelly Bay is at risk. These problems can and must be dealt with. The agencies which promoted developments around and in the hinterland of Nelly Bay have been very slow to respond to their obligations in respect of Gustav Creek. I urge those who own land adjacent to Gustav Creek to help the clean-up. Let's put fish back in the creek."
An interesting feature of the walk-through was the locating of several exposed segments of what some referred to as "native cement" - a material which appears to be a weakly bound sedimentary sandstone at the base of the creek. According to locals like Mike Schmidt, whose families have lived on the creek for many decades, this was the original bed of the creek and the tonnes of sand now above it was making it very hard for native fish such as the gudgeon to reproduce.
Short and longer term strategies were developed by the group but the most pressing aim was to employ qualified Townsville City Council-managed teams to kill the Singapore daisy before this coming wet season - utilising weedicides that directly target that species. This would restrict the weed's capacity from re-infesting the lower reaches which are now relatively clear of the pest.
The strategy was also likely to eventually see sediment removed from the bed by machinery but it seemed this would occur after the effect of the next wet season's floods - if they occur - had dealt with the loosened sand.
A longer term strategy of restoring and stabilising the creek's banks with appropriate local native species was agreed to but would require further engagement from the creek's adjoining residents.
Follow up removal of recurring weeds was also seen as vital as it was accepted that, rather than ever being eradicated, the damaging plants could be managed with far better results for the creekline.
It couldn't be stressed enough that although the residents along the creek had been notified by letterbox drop, inviting them to attend the workshop, their engagement, even if only to be aware of and approve the broad strategy, is still vital to the success of the project. As the team will not enter the private property of residents whose boundaries enter the creek zone the approach will be to avoid those parts and continue where permitted. However such an approach can create havens for the weeds to remain and multiply from.
All residents interested or wishing to know more about this beneficial project are encouraged to contact Katrina Cullen or officers from Greening Townsville - a subsection of TCC on 47279520.
Story & photo: George Hirst
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