Residents of Sandy Beach are launching a campaign to save Hearnes Lake from complete degradation and ‘death from over development’ across the catchment.
The runoff from new housing estates and the rapid expansion of intensive agriculture – mostly blueberries – has made the lake virtually unusable. The Sandy Beach Action Group (Sandbags) has begun to lobby for tighter controls over development in the catchment and will hold a rally at the lake this coming Saturday.
Recent investigations by the Environmental Protection Authority, Coffs Harbour City Council and Southern Cross University have uncovered a litany of woes. These include: a fish kill thought to be from a highly toxic pesticide chlorpyrifos; extremely-high nutrient levels, and; incidents of die-back in mangroves and saltmarshes on the lake’s foreshores.
Residents are also concerned about the fact that raw sewage is known to flow into Hearnes from the adjacent caravan park. There are also reports of illegal clearing and dumping on the proposed development site around the lake.
A spokesman for Sandbag says severe environmental stress on the lake is now known to be caused by over development in the catchment, yet, plans exist for yet another major housing estate on lake’s foreshores, at Sandy Beach North, by Sydney firm Elite Constructions.
A recent Land and Environment Court decision acknowledged that Elite had ‘physically commenced’ construction, by demolishing two houses adjoining the site, even though no actual building had begun. The company still faces some legal hurdles gaining development approvals for construction from the Coffs Harbour City Council and the State Government, and these matters will be the subject of conciliation conferences in August.
Meanwhile, residents fear that the lake is ‘dying the death of a thousand bureaucratic cuts’, as the wrangling over the Sandy Beach North proposal has now gone on for nearly a decade. They believe lack of regulatory controls over building developments and farming practices is causing a modern-day ‘death of the commons’. They say the highly-prized wildlife area and sanctuary that is Hearnes Lake is being destroyed and the lake itself poisoned.
“This might prove not to be a very appealing location for new home buyers”, according to Sandbag spokesman, Peter Quiddington. “While plans for this very controversial development are in legal limbo, we now know from the various authorities, that Hearnes Lake is an environmental disaster in progress.
“What occurs on private land is hard to control but the problems are now spilling over and flowing down to destroy a major public recreational resource. The lake was once used for all kinds of activities: swimming, fishing and kayaking. It has now become a danger zone for humans, not to mention the impacts being felt on the wildlife in this high-value wildlife area.
“What is needed for Hearnes is rehabilitation not more construction.”
Sandbag has recently made a detailed submission to the Coffs Harbour City Council Rural Lands Growth Strategy arguing for much tighter controls over intensive agriculture in the area and this is available at the ‘Save Hearnes Lake’ Facebook site, along with other background information and photographs.
Sandbags is organising a protest rally on the shores of Hearnes Lake for Saturday March, 9, at 10am. Candidates in the forthcoming State election, Sally Townley and Johnathan Cassell are to speak at the rally.
The above is a Press Release from Sandbags – Tuesday 5 March 2019.