Kayaking crusade continues

It was over three weeks ago that I wrote about Steve Posselt’s kayaking crusade to highlight the stupidity of the planned Traveston Dam on the Mary River. On April 12th, he started his month long journey kayaking up the Brisbane River, down the Mary River and back down to Brisbane.

He’s now paddling his way back down the coast, having reached Noosa on the weekend and now heading into the Pumicestone Passage between Bribie Island and the mainland. You can read his daily progress reports here – each day’s entry contains lots of photos. Maybe it’s my Brisbane bias, but I found his reports on the Brisbane River as interesting as those about the Mary. I guess the impenetrable hyacinth waterweed mats take on much more significance when you’re trying to paddle through them, but apart from the wider environmental damage, they’re also significant because these weeds consume so much water.

For other photos of the area of the Mary River that will be drowned by the dam, you can also check out this site to see what might soon be flooded for ever. Of course, the damage to the river will not just be in the areas that are flooded, but also downstream, where it flows into the world heritage Great Sandy Strait.

Steve’s kayaking journey finished back in Brisbane this coming Saturday. DETAILS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST.

In the meantime, I see that the Queensland Opposition has released a new water policy for south-east Queensland. Not surprisingly, it rejects the Traveston Dam, and understandably the Save the Mary River group have supported it. A desalination plant is certainly better than a dam, at least in regards to reliability of water supply, environmental damage and also – at least when contrasted with Traveston Dam – in energy usage. Unfortunately, according to the media reports (I couldn’t find details of the policy on the Coalition parties’ websites), it also rules out putting recycled water back into our existing water supplies, which is better than both desalination and dams, so it looks like another policy driven by short term politics, and a case of one step forward and half a step back.

It seems that the decision on whether the dam will be stopped will rest with federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett. I’ve never been too keen on taking the easy ‘sell out’ shots on Peter Garrett just because he signed up to the Labor Party. I figure that having people of his calibre and record inside a major party is not a bad thing. I also recognise that being part of government does impose constraints that are not there when you’re in a smaller party. However, that sort of leeway only goes so far, and this decision really is a watershed one. It is SO clear the Traveston Dam is highly destructive to the environment. Given that it is also unnecessary, indeed undesirable just from a water policy point of view, it would be a serious failure if Mr Garrett gave it the go ahead, when he clearly has the legal power to stop it under federal law.


Steve Posselt, the marathon cross country kayaker, will paddle up the Brisbane River past Southbank at 11.30am Saturday 10th May arriving at the West End boat ramp at noon. A good vantage point for viewing Steve and the crowd will be Victoria Bridge.

The West End boat ramp is where the trip started at noon on 12th April. It is in Riverside Drive between Jane and Boundary Streets, West End.

Welcoming him home along the Southbank boardwalk will be a host of people he has met on the way who are passionate about the Mary River and the Great Sandy Straits.

They include Save The Mary River Group and the Greater Mary Association.

Steve has paddled and dragged his wheeled kayak up the Brisbane River, over the Conondale Ranges, down the Mary River and back to Brisbane via the Great Sandy Straits and the Pacific Ocean.

He has viewed the river systems like no other and has done this through the eyes of a civil engineer who has been in the water industry since 1971.

He says Brisbane people need to know that water restrictions were a result of planning failure, that in 1993 they could be foreseen, that Traveston Crossing Dam is the worst option the Queensland Water Commission can take as it will not give Brisbane the water it needs and it will be condemned by future generations for its cost to the future wealth of South East Queensland.

Further details www.kayak4earth.com

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  1. Andrew:
    You and I both know why Qld has a water storage problem.
    Our man Kevin was a major player in the Goss Government when he canned the last deep water dam option in SE Qld.
    That was his first claim to fame.
    I Wonder what will be his next one.


  2. Hi Tony

    You might be interested to know that there are more ways to provide water security other than dams.

    Take for instance the SEQ Urban Water Security Alliance – a coalition between University of Queensland, Griffith Uni, CSIRO and the Qld Government. They have eleven projects which aim to increase water security of SEQ – NONE OF THEM ARE DAMS.

    We need to move into the 21st century regarding our approach to water.

    Whilst some storage in the system may be required, dams have major major problems – they lose water through evaporation and seepage, they can become breeding grounds of noxious weeds and disease vectors, they destroy rivers, have constant greenhouse gas emissions and we often forget that dams also cause declines in the productivity of the estuary at the mouth of the river. 75% of Qld’s seafood comes from estuaries. A decline in estuarine fishery productivity, has a direct economic and social impact on Queensland (not to mention the tremendous ecological impacts).

    If you would like to know more, let me know and I can direct you to the research.

    Kind regards


  3. Tanzi,

    Always looking for good reading material.
    I myself still favour dams but recent surveys I have read indicate that acceptance of desalination is high although the public have concerns about the enviromental impact.
    Recycled water is also becoming popular for use in gardens etc but acceptance for consumption is still very low.


  4. Tanzi:

    Here’s a simple concept worth thinking on. When it rains, we catch as much water as possible, and then store it for future use.

    We don’t have to pay for what we catch in dams and rainwater tanks.

    A friend’s husband is working on desalination. It’s a very costly exercise.

    Yes, there are fish breeding in estuaries, but what use are they if Anna Bligh won’t let anyone catch them?

    Plenty of people have killed nearly everything in their gardens using recycled water – cheaper than herbicides, I suppose.

    Councils used to consider grey water to be contaminated, unhygienic and completely unsuitable for use in backyards.

    Here’s another idea. Fill in backyard pools and don’t allow any more to be put in. Councils can pump the water out and spray it on school ovals, public parks and sporting fields.

    Our days of giving swimming pools a drink should have been over a long time ago.

    Besides this, toddler drownings have been increasing at an horrendous pace since backyard pools became fashionable.

  5. Who says support for recycled water consumption is low? Can you point me to a reliable survey (not a ninemsn one for instance)?

    And yes, it’s true Lorikeet that we don’t have to “pay” for the water in dams. But we do have to pay to construct and maintain damn, pipelines, water monitoring, compensate those who are affected. Similarly, we can no longer benefit from any agriculture that might have used that land. And industries downstream are also affected.

    And I personally don’t know of anyone who has killed their plants by using recycled water. The two people I do know who use it both report thriving gardens.

    But yes, you’re right that we used to consider grey water unhygenic, but we also used to consider slavery acceptable. People can and do change their minds when faced with facts.

  6. Lorikeet.

    Well planned dams are the way to go thats for sure. You only have to have a look around some of the development sites where they are using recycled water (Sewage) and see the rashs etc the workman suffer from when being spashed with it.
    I notice the CSIRO in WA still has concerns with recycled sewage for consumption.

    The references are numerous but you could start with this http://ro.uow.edu.au/commpapers/138/
    Dont forget the quanity that the Qld State Government wants to inject into the system.
    some 30 – 40%. Higher than anywhere else that I am aware of.


  7. Muzz:

    I think there’s a vast difference between “facts” and “desperation”.

    More water storage facilities equal less desperation.

    I’m still looking for a connection between slavery and the use of contaminated water.

  8. There wasnt a connection Lorikeet nor was it intended as such – it was used as an analogy to back up the point that people can and do chnage their opinions.

  9. Thanks for the link Tony. It’s good to see someone backing up their claims with scientific evidence. But do you have any for these rashes that the workmen are getting? I know one of the managers of the Oxley Recycling Centre and a couple of people who work on the pipeline company and they have never mentioned anything of the sort.

    For me – and I’m guessing for anyone – the amount of recycled water to be used is irrelevant. For those opposed, even 1% would be too much. And for those like me who think it’s an intelligent solution, it doesn’t matter.

  10. My goodness, Muzz!

    My daughter-in-law is a microbiologist. Your second paragraph would be enough to make her hair stand on end.

  11. The recycled water in south east Queensland will be pumped into the damn and therefore will go through exactly the same filters as dam water. Because it’s using the same process, it is as equally likely or unlikely to carry something harmful.

    Dam water contains the faeces and and water-borne organisms carried by birds, fish, cows, kangaroos and any other wildlife that lives in its catchment. We’ve been drinking it for years.

    Furthermore many of us – myself (and I suspect you as well, Lorikeet) included – used to drink tap water that had no filter finer than a wire mesh.

    This stuff is not going to harm us.

  12. Muzzmonster:

    Besides the known side effects of infertility and fish gender deformities in areas using tiny amounts of recycled water, is it worth the risk? I know the Qld government is aware of the massive law suites awaiting them should they fail. Think of these facts.
    1. No country has deliberately released recycled sewage at these levels anywhere in the world.
    2. No one can assure the population that the water will be safe and that no known or future dangerous drugs/chemicals will be allowed through the screening.
    3. It cannot be compared with current dam filtration processes.
    Our recycling plant will be taking recycled sewage and waste water from, Hospitals, Abattoirs, and chemical plants.
    Is it worth the risk? Or should we be implementing dams and pipelines from one of the wettest regions in the world – North Qld.


  13. Muzz: the Multi-threaded Provocateur!
    I used to “drink tap water that had no filter finer than a wire mesh” … and the mesh was often broken as I recall.

    Not a lot of kangaroo faeces in that water, but more importantly (and relating to Tony #13), not a lot of chemicals & hormones etc etc on the roof of our childhood home.

    I’m not aware of those dam water filters catering to the “hospitals, abattoir and chemical” effluent referred to by Tony, but on this point, look forward to you backing up your confidence in recycled water with the scientific evidence you like to see.

  14. Muzz:

    Aren’t you aware of the size of a micro-organism? I don’t think a piece of nanomesh could halt its progress.

    Here’s another point. We are much more at risk from HUMAN micro-organisms in sewerage and hospital effluent. Hospitals have patients with HIV and other equally nasty contagious diseases.

    The likely effects of various drugs and chemicals do not bear thinking on.

    Now I’m thinking my scientist friend can join you in drinking recycled water, while I drink the dirt, bird poop and flying fox crap from the roof – maybe with a frog’s leg thrown in.

    GZG is still alive, isn’t he?

  15. Yes, GZG, there are “not a lot of chemicals & hormones etc etc on the roof of our childhood home.” These are in our environment now, and we are either drinking them now or having them filtered through our dams.

    All the ater we drink now is recycled from human, animal, agricultural and industrial use, just through a longer process. The chemicals we release into water and the atmosphere doesn’t just disappear – it comes back to us eventually.

    So I figure that we either trust the filtration systems in our dams, recycling centres or desalination plants, or buy bottled water. Then again, there’s always beer and gin.

    I’d search for some scientific papers, except I’ve got my own papers due in 3 weeks, so if you remember ask me again then.

  16. I worry the State Govt is not suitably qualified to administer the infrastructrue they build. The Lenthalls Dam Gates on the Burrum River (Hervey Bay) just north of the Mary River are a good example – our family were just about washed away in Feb 08 when the gates failed – the gates are still not fixed and we are still not relocated this is what the traveston community have ahead of them Please see the article:
    Resident fears dam gates risk flooding

    Updated Wed May 21, 2008 8:25am AEST
    • Map: Hervey Bay 4655
    A land-holder upstream of a major dam south-west of Hervey Bay says multi-million dollar barriers on the storage are broken, putting her family at risk of flooding.
    Queensland Deputy Premier Paul Lucas will officially open the $16 million project at Lenthalls Dam, which is designed to more than double the storage’s capacity.
    In what is claimed to be an Australian first, the two metre high crest gates sink when the dam reaches capacity to prevent flooding upstream and provide for environmental flows.
    But Esther Allan says in February the gates jammed, causing water to back up onto her property.
    “This is an extremely expensive piece of infrastructure. Ratepayers paid for this and their expectation would be that it would be operable,” she said.
    “If it wasn’t, we need to know why – not only because our family’s safety was put at risk, but because ratepayers expect to get a result from the infrastructure they pay for.”
    The local government corporation that runs Lenthalls Dam says the gates do not work, but it was monitoring the rising water.
    Wide Bay Water general manager David Wiskar says adjustments were needed during the dam’s commissioning and are continuing.
    “The gates were all needing some fine-tuning. At the moment we were able to complete that tuning on three of the gates,” he said.
    “There’s two that remain to be done, but we’re waiting until the level in the dam falls to an adequate level to [do] those final two.”

  17. 270 Downstream Residents at Risk as Lenthalls Dam Gates Hervey Bay are still not operable.
    Wide Bay Water Corporation still have not consulted affected residents upstream regarding the Emergency Action Plan in the event an evacuation is required or residents need to be contacted.

    With a view to investigating the reasons that Public Saftey with Respect to Lenthalls Dam Gate Failure has never been taken too seriously ( or at least upstream saftey issues) we have been looking in the the qualifications and background of the key decision makers within Wide Bay Water Corporation.

    Engineers Registered with the as Proffessional Engineers with the Board of Proffessional Engineers Queensland have an obligation under their code of practice to act with public saftey as a priority.

    It came as a suprise to us to find that of the senior staff and the CEO of WBW only one person is registered with the BPEQ to operate as an engineer in QLD. The only other BPEQ registered engineer at Wide Bay Water Corporation in a senior decision making role is a person on the board of Directors WBW, who is located at Ormiston not Hervey Bay.

    The requirements are that unregistered engineers, and it seems there are many in WBW HB, must act under the direct Locational supervision of a registered Engineer.

    That is they must be supervised by enineers located at Hervey Bay.

    Is the CEO under constant supervision by this person from the Board? and if so how much is the ratepayer paying for him to be continually in HB supervising the CEO? The continual travel from Ormiston Brisbane would be expensive?
    The Operations Manual for Lenthalls dam places ultimate responsibility for operation with the CEO? Who is supervising the CEO with respect to the Civil and Mechanical and Hyraulogical management of Lenthalls Dam?
    Where are is the supervising engineer located?

    What is the state doing to ensure public saftey – very little

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