Concerns raised about the GKI beach sand bag strategy
FREEDOM Fast Cats operator Max Allen says he is embarrassed and worried at the sand bags littering Putney Beach on Great Keppel Island.
The spit between Main (Fisherman's) Beach and Putney Beach has eroded away for decades, but it was accelerated by the damage created by two cyclone events and high tides creating community concern and countermeasures to be implemented by Livingstone Shire Council.
At stake was the Great Keppel Island Hideaway Resort, which has gradually lost its 200m of Putney Beach frontage to the ocean and GKI's underground drinking water supply, which, if breached by the continuing erosion, could turn to brine, forcing locals to find their drinking water from other sources.
Mr Allen said there were three options put to LSC, regarding a fix - putting in pylons, a rock wall or sand bags - with the council settling on the sand bag option.
LSC approved the Great Keppel Island Bar and Resort Pty Ltd (Hideaway) plan in 2015 to take the sand from Main Beach and fill geotextile bags to create a revetment wall for Putney Beach with the eventual goal of covering the sand bags over and letting the sand on Main Beach naturally replenish itself.
"When the locals on the island found out they were able to take the main beach sand, they all started to jump up and down," Mr Allen said.
He understood that this replenishment process was now 90 per cent done and the sand transfer would be ongoing for the next 20 years.
Mr Allen said they were told the sand bags were guaranteed to last 25 years but he doubted they would last longer than 10-15 years with the cyclone activity around the region.
"I can see them always being a problem and always being exposed. It's not a very good plan, it's a quick job fix at the cheapest rate and the worst thing is when we bring guests over here, they see these open exposed sand bags.
"It doesn't bring too much justice to the beauty of Great Keppel with its 17 beautiful beaches but one is covered in sand bags and the second one, which is the main beach that everyone gets to first, is getting taken away."
In addition to the visual aspect, Mr Allen was concerned about safety saying that the sandbags were turning into a children's playground and with the algae forming on the bags, someone was bound to slip and hurt themselves.
He sent pictures to The Morning Bulletin of old broken- up sand bags from a previous attempt to build the wall, which were still scattered around GKI after being destroyed by a cyclone.
He said the excavation works were also impacting on the Main Beach, with excavation vehicles working through school holidays, creating a lagoon on the beach during high tides and water threatening nearby businesses.
As a consequence of the excavation, Mr Allen said the ferry landing to the beach would become too shallow to beach properly and there was a threat of waves entering the rear of the ferries if the wind was blowing from the south or southwesterly direction.
GKI Hideaway group manager Kelly Harris responded to the concerns saying the Geofabric bags have been installed around the world and in some places for 25 years without showing signs of degradation and they hoped they would be a permanent solution.
"The tide has always risen to the levels it is on Fisherman's Beach, the sand build up there over the past five years has been amazing," Mr Harris said.
"The government's coastal experts and commissioned contractors that came up with the plans decided Fisherman's Beach was the best location to take the sand from.
"Our understanding was because that is where the eroded sand from Putney Beach ended up, so they were essentially taking it back to where it came from. Dredging was another option investigated however they deemed that too environmentally detrimental."
He said he hadn't been made aware or seen any possible damage to businesses from water off Fisherman's Beach and that Keppel Konnections have ferries to and from the island at least twice a day and don't have problems with beach landing or waves entering the rear of the ferries.
After a cyclone and some engineering difficulties, works are progressing well now and they're hoping to have the works completed by October 1.
Fortunately, all the main infrastructure on Putney Beach is now protected.
"The geotextile container that is being used is very different to the green matting in the photo attached. However, we do daily cleaning of all beaches from both the land and sea.
"The owners of the Hideaway are spending a lot of money promoting Central Qld's jewel in the crown, around both the country and into Europe at the moment, so we definitely take the cleanliness of our beaches seriously.
"Inevitably after severe weather all sorts of debris get exposed but we clean it up as quickly as possible," he said.
A Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning spokesperson said the decision to approve the sandbagging was solely the responsibility of the Livingstone Shire Council.
"The State Government, through the State Assessment and Referral Agency, had a limited role in assessing the application for the sandbagging," the spokesperson said. "This was limited to assessing the impacts of the proposed sandbagging on coastal processes."
A Livingstone Shire Council spokesperson said the current revetment wall works underway on Putney Beach at Great Keppel Island were approved by the council in 2015.
"The planned works consist of the construction of three tiers of large-scale sandbags which, once complete, will include an estimate of 70 sandbags built across most of the length of Putney Beach in order to protect it from major erosion in the future," the LSC spokesperson said.
"Once completed, the wall will be continually replenished with sand each year as it becomes subjected to varying weather conditions including wind, rough seas and high tides.
"While the project has taken longer than anticipated due to a number of engineering challenges, it's still in the early stage of construction, and current principal contractor, Great Keppel Island Hideaway Bar and Resort, which is carrying out the works, anticipate the project's completion by 1 October, 2018."
LSC said their council officers and other State Government departments had been carrying out regular inspections of the site to ensure the work complies with the approval conditions provided by the council.
"This includes requirements to follow legislation under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 to ensure all aspects of the Environmental Management Plan are complied with at all times," they said.
Keppel MP Brittany Lauga said due to the proximity of the Hideaway Resort complex to the erosion occurring on Putney Beach there is a risk that resort infrastructure will be damaged/lost if the erosion continues to advance.
"The erosion remediation works on Great Keppel Island, being undertaken by the Great Keppel Island Bar and Resort Pty Ltd (Hideaway), have been subject to multiple compliance inspections since the development approval was issued in March 2015," Mrs Lauga said.
"Proactive compliance inspections are generally undertaken by Livingstone Shire Council in accordance with local government delegations under the Planning Act 2016.
"Inspections by the Department of Environment and Science have primarily focused upon emergency works associated with disaster events and threats to infrastructure."
She said the department undertook a compliance inspection on January 22, 2018 in response to a community report and was seeking advice as to whether there have been compliance inspections undertaken since this date.
In the event that any compliance matters are identified, Mrs Lauga said they would be managed in accordance with legislative requirements and departmental policy.
A spokesperson from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said Great Keppel Island Bar and Resort Pty Ltd were issued a development approval under the Queensland Planning Act 2016 to construct a geo-textile sandbag wall along Putney Beach.
"Under the Planning Act, Livingstone Shire Council are the assessment managers for prescribed tidal works, including those at Keppel Island, and are best placed to answer questions around the timing and options," the spokesperson said.
"Under the Planning Act, the Queensland Department of Environment and Science administers and enforces conditions associated with the department's referral agency and may also be of assistance.
"The Department also issued a State marine parks permit for the works under the Marine Parks Act 2004 for aspects of the works that are within the State marine park.
"The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's role was assessing a permit application for those aspects of the works within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which was to install a pipeline and associated concrete block that pumps water from the ocean to the island to assist with works on the island."