Local, Science/Environment

“Hearnes Lake should be given legal standing” – Townley.

The drone shot below taken from above the sanctuary zone of Flat Top Point, in the Solitary Islands Marine Park, back over the landscape, tells it all: rapid development in the Hearnes Lake catchment and the rapid decline in the health of the lake and wetlands, with die back spreading along the shorelines.

By the Sandy Beach Action Group (Sandbag)

A drone shot of Hearnes lake and the rally last saturday

The white netting on the hills stretches over acres of new blueberry farms. The recently completed highway is surrounded by housing developments. Over the past decade, what was once a highly-valued recreational resource has become almost unusable and one of the most polluted lakes on the east coast.

So, what can save the lake and wetlands which have been properly described as the ‘kidneys’ of the marine park, because of the vital role they play in cleansing the waters flowing into the park?

 At the Hearnes Lake SOS rally on Saturday, Independent candidate in the upcoming State election, Sally Townley, suggested a possible way forward. She believes that the community should now step up and form a catchment-wide management authority.

It was an idea that won support from the crowd of well over 100-strong. They had mostly come from Sandy Beach but also from as far as Corindi, Mooney and Nana Glen.

This idea resonated with a notion being developed by Sandbag’s Save Hearnes Lake campaign, that perhaps it is time for Hearnes to be properly recognized as a valuable asset in its very own right, and, as such needs to be given legal standing.

This is not such a radical idea as this model is being adopted in different parts of the world. One celebrated example is the Whanganui River, in the North Island of New Zealand. However, it is an approach yet to be embraced in New South Wales, or in Australia in general. However, Hearnes Lake, which is a relatively small catchment, with a large number of stakeholders and competing demands, could provide a useful starting point.

Sally Townley’s suggestion offers a very practical first step in towards this goal. The idea is that the community take the lead, form a management group and bring together the various stakeholders as a way of advancing the best interests of the lake. It is an idea whose time has come for it is clear that government and private enterprise have failed monumentally to care for Hearnes.

The rally also heard from other candidates, Greens Jonathan Cassell and Independent Ann Leonard, who both spoke in support of the campaign. Tony Judge, the Country Labor Candidate, sent a statement saying that if elected he would be asking the relevant ministers to review previous decisions on the proposed housing development at Hearnes (Sandy Beach North). Nationals candidate Gurmesh Singh, also provided a statement arguing that stringent rules and regulations existed already with regard to offsite effects of both farming and housing development. It was education and enforcement that was insufficient, he said.

Some members of the crowd had very different views and offered accounts that pointed to the reckless overuse of chemicals, especially on the blueberry farms, and the need for much stronger regulation.

The situation has become so bad that some parents are now concerned about sending their children to Sandy Beach Public School because of the encroachment of blueberry farms in the area. Parents and other concerned residents will meet at the school at 9.15am, March 13, to discuss the issue.

The above is a Press Release from Sandbag – Sunday March 10, 2019

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