Local, Opinion/Comment

Censored? Alarming SCU water study articles appear to ‘disappear’ from Coffs Coast Advocate

Recent water studies undertaken by Southern Cross University on behalf of Coffs Council have revealed record-breaking levels of agricultural chemicals in our water. What could be more alarming than that? Key reporting on the studies appears to have been mysteriously scrubbed from some of the Coffs Coast Advocate’s online search results, based on our investigations.

By the Protect Coffs Water group

Why can’t we find the reporting on SCU water studies?

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed we’re in the early stages of updating our community research page. As part of the first stage of this process, we’ve been reviewing media coverage of the issues over the last decade.

So far we’ve read and listed a full 95 articles of interest going back to 2009.

Even just skimming the headlines in chronological order gives you a sense of the issues: from bananas disappearing and triggerring run-off concerns in 2009, to community flare-ups around netting in 2014, right through to increased examples of labor abuse, chemical dumping, and concerning water quality studies through to the present day.

While undertaking this process a very odd fact emerged. 91 of those articles can be found through the paper’s online search tool, while 4 cannot.

The four articles all relate to Southern Cross University’s damning water quality studies. What follows are the listings from our research page:

  • 15/09/2018 – Farms ‘regulated heavily’ – ⚠️ This article has ‘disappeared’ from Coffs Advocate search? Includes Gurmesh Singh’s response to the Hearnes Lake and Bucca Creek studies.
  • 08/09/2018 – FEARS OF Farming FALLOUT – ⚠️ This article has ‘disappeared’ from Coffs Advocate search?  Reports on council’s water studies.
  • 08/09/2018 – Results Ringing Alarm Bells – ⚠️ This article has ‘disappeared’ from Coffs Advocate search?  Reports on council’s water studies.
  • 23/05/2018 – Study Into Agricultural Impacts -⚠️ This article has ‘disappeared’ from Coffs Advocate search? Reports on council’s water studies.

Take ‘FEARS OF Farming FALLOUT’. It reports in part (our emphasis):

ALARMING environmental research results have renewed calls for urgent reforms to the blueberry industry

Due to water quality concerns Coffs Harbour City Council commissioned the research, which has detected highly elevated levels of nutrients flowing into Hearnes Lake.

The study found levels of phosphorous, a component of fertiliser, had risen dramatically since the expansion of the industry on the Northern Beaches. It also found large volumes of nitrogen are carried from farms to local waterways and the ocean.

The levels found were some of the highest ever recorded on the east coast and are similar to results from heavily polluted estuaries overseas.

Don’t worry about the last paragraph – we only emphasised it to highlight the environmental crisis happening right now on the Coffs Coast. Yes, in our opinion it is a crisis.

Let’s focus on two key parts: Hearnes Lake and phosphorous. Surely that’s enough for a concerned citizen to discover this important reporting?

Let’s see…

🎶I still haven’t found what I’m looking for 🎶

The above is from the Protect Coffs Water web site. Published Thursday 7 March 2017

Editors note – Thursday 14 March 2019 – Yesterday Outlook received a Twitter notification from Matt Deans, Editor of The Coffs Coast Advocate, wherein he pointed out that the headlines in the hard copy newspaper are not always the same used on the same stories in their web site and that in fact that was the case in relation to the SCU study articles mentioned above.

One Comment

  1. Garth Stonecross

    Not hugely surprising.

    There were numerous stories on Facebook over the weekend of March 9/10 about blueberry farming practices and costs on the Coffs Coast and more than a few posters commented on how hard it is to get The Advocate to publish anything that is even minutely critical of the industry.

    Afraid of upsetting advertisers and ‘the local powers that be’ are they?

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