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Thursday, 25 November 1965


Mr REYNOLDS (Barton) .- Mr. Speaker,in recent months I have made several references to the very serious problems of erosion and siltation along the foreshores of Botany Bay particularly between the Brighton-le-Sands and Kyeemagh areas in my electorate and in the adjacent electorate of St. George. I have drawn the attention of the House to this matter in speeches I have made here and I have directed the attention of the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) to this matter in letters I have written to him regarding the seriousness of this problem. I have made representations on behalf of the Council of the Municipality of Rockdale and the various other interested bodies and individuals in the locality.

The first instance of this serious erosion took place in the week between 1 7th and 24th July of this year. Since then another quite substantial amount of damage has been caused. This arose out of a storm on 8th October, I think. The residents of this area and the Council of the Municipality of Rockdale particularly are very deeply concerned about the fact that no public authority, either State or Commonwealth, is prepared to take responsibility at this stage for the damage that has occurred or to make provision for the prevention of further damage in the area. To give honorable members some indication of what I am complaining about, I will read a short extract from a letter I wrote to the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton), on 23rd July 1965. In this letter I said -

The point of referring this matter to your notice is that it is strongly suspected that the erected part of the Kingsford-Smith Airport north-south runway extension into Botany Bay has so influenced tidal direction and action as to be an important factor in the unusually severe erosion. Additionally the deepening of the Bay bed in the immediate vicinity through dredging operations to supply sand for the Airport works is also suspected as a major factor.

Local residents claim that during the stormy weather on this occasion the waves rolling onto the beach seemed to be larger than usual. A prominent local engineer suggests that the deepening of the Bay in the immediate area would tend to aggravate the scouring action of the water on the beach under such circumstances.

On inspection yesterday I found most of the beach had disappeared and erosion had undermined a considerable yardage of a corrugated iron wall erected some years ago to protect residents and homes from sand blasts. An amount of this structure has collapsed and been carted off on the tide. Residents estimate that the beach floor has been lowered by about three feet and erosion has eaten into the adjacent parkland to a depth of six or more feet in places.

Mr. Speaker,not only has the erosion eaten away the beach in this area but also it has eaten into the beach wall at the back of the beach to the extent of approximately 12 or 15 feet. There is only a narrow parkland between this area and important roadways in the municipality. It will be no time at all, If storms of this nature continue to have this effect, before the erosion will be encroaching onto the roadway itself. On the other side of the roadway is a number of residences. This erosion, of course, is giving the owners of those residences grave concern. After all, this happened five months ago. Despite all the entreaties I have made and despite entreaties by other organisations in the community, the Commonwealth has not given any indication that it intends to do anything about the problem. The Commonwealth has referred the matter, 1 believe, to the Wallingford Hydraulics Research Station of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in England for further investigation. This body was asked to investigate what could be the problems when the whole business of the runway extension was first mooted. All of that research work took place before the dredging operations began and before the runway extensions were commenced. It ls now a matter of going into further research to look at the effects which have occurred, unpredictably apparently, since these works have taken place.

The Minister for Works in a letter to me on 6th September 1965 did acknowledge that these dredging operations could have had some effect in the Kyeemagh area. I quote very briefly from his letter to me on this subject. The Minister for Works said -

At Kyeemagh the possibility that the presence of the dredged area intensified the effect of the storm waves on the beach cannot be dismissed. The direction of the wind during the storm of the 17-18th July was such that waves would traverse diagonally across the dredged area towards the corner of the beach.

Then there are some theoretical remarks to the effect that officers of the Maritime Services Board believe that this could have caused a concentration of wave energy on the beach. The situation is much more serious than 1 have described it. Not only has the beach been taken away, and not only has the erosion encroached on the narrow parkland in front of the homes in the area and approached the roadway but in another part of this area there is heavy siltation. The Kyeemagh baths have been rendered completely useless. I inspected the Kyeemagh baths a little while ago and at low tide there is hardly any water in these baths which were constructed at considerable expense to local residents by the local municipal council. Additionally, river access to an important boating club - the Kyeemagh Amateur Fishermen's Club - has been silted up. This club has made representations to the Minister for Works, through me, suggesting that the siltation of the mouth of Cook's River where it enters Botany Bay presents a serious danger to human life. I have described that danger in full to the Minister for Works and to the House before. I have not time to repeat it now.

On 28th September 1965 the Town Clerk of the Council of the Municipality of Rockdale wrote to me and mentioned the seriousness of this matter. The Council asked me further, to draw to the attention of the Minister for Works the urgency of this matter. As I say, that was on 28th September, nearly two months ago. We still have no indication of action by the Commonwealth. It is obvious to anybody who is versed at all in the matter that the dredging operations and the runway extensions have been the prime cause of the serious damage that has occurred in the area. I have not spoken about the damage to the property values. People who own residences in the area would suffer a severe loss of value through the existence of this problem and the continued delay of the Commonwealth to make any kind of decision as to what it intends to do about the matter if they tried to sell their properties at this stage.

One of the matters to which I want to refer in the few minutes left to me is this: The research which has been carried out has been undertaken by the Wallingford Hydraulics Research Station in England. It has been drawn to my notice that we have perfectly adequate facilities for research in this field in Australia. One organisation which could undertake this work is the Water Research Laboratory of the University of New South Wales which has its headquarters at Manly Vale, 12 miles from the scene of this damage. This authority assures me it has complete facilities to carry out all the research that is necessary. As a matter of fact, members of the Water Research Laboratory could be at this area within an hour or so of the onset of a storm to make an on the spot inspection of what is going on. But instead of patronising a local organisation, the Commonwealth Government has given the whole of this job to research laboratories in England. The Water Research Laboratory is not the only local body that could carry out this work. What about the research facilities of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority at Cooma which, I suppose, have been seen by every member of this House? These facilities are quite adequate to carry out the research work I have mentioned. Then there is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation which has carried out similar research, I understand, in the Portland area in Victoria.

Of course, not only is there extra cost involved in employing an overseas laboratory to carry out this research, but also time and delay are involved. With regard to the matter of extra cost, I understand that officers will have to be sent out from England to make inspections of the damage that has been caused. The Water Research Laboratory of the University of New South Wales tells me that it has even been asked by the Wallingford Hydraulics Research Station in England for some advice on the matter. The Water Research Laboratory assures me that it could have carried out all the research work that was necessary for the extension of the runway and for the ancillary facilities that might be needed. It is wondering why the Commonwealth had to go outside Australia to the laboratory in England for this kind of research. As it turned out, the research done in England did not produce very accurate predictions about the collateral effects of the extension of the runway and the dredging of Botany Bay. I ask the Commonwealth Government, for goodness sake, to hurry up and make up its mind about what it intends to do and so relieve the people in this area of worry about damage to their homes.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable member's time has expired.







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