Independent assessments set to be presented to Surf Coast Shire Council at its 25 October meeting show that stormwater from north Torquay is having an adverse impact on the Karaaf Wetlands on Wadawurrung Country.
“The Karaaf Wetlands is a complex and changing environment as well as a culturally significant landscape. We have more to learn about how much water is needed by the Karaaf, from what sources, at what times and in what climatic conditions to ensure it is healthy,” said Surf Coast Shire Mayor, Libby Stapleton.
“The quality of stormwater needs to be improved and the volume entering via The Sands lakes system needs to be reduced. This work will take time but we are focused on achieving the best result for the Karaaf.
“We are grateful for our community’s activism and care for the environment. We are now exploring options that are better for the Karaaf Wetlands and will improve our community’s future water security,” Mayor Stapleton said.
Surf Coast Shire Council CEO, Robyn Seymour said the assessments revealed that Council’s master planning of the stormwater network from over 10 years ago focused on managing peak flow rates rather than total volume.
“Therefore the plans underestimated the amount of water that would be generated from north Torquay developments and did not identify the potential for it to affect the vegetation in the Karaaf Wetlands,” Ms Seymour said. “We are committed to learning from and addressing this.”
Ms Seymour said the surplus of stormwater presents an opportunity, with Council working with Barwon Water on a plan to divert stormwater away from the Karaaf, mix it with recycled water from Black Rock Water Reclamation Plant, and use it to support high value agricultural activities in the Thompson Valley.
This also supports the goals of the Surf Coast Distinctive Area and Landscape (DAL) project to maintain separation between Torquay and development in Armstrong Creek.
“In the meantime we are starting a new project to assess our options to improve the quality of stormwater from our network and to divert some water away from the Karaaf Wetlands as we work towards the longer-term vision,” Ms Seymour said.
“We will also begin implementing some of the actions identified in the North Torquay Constructed Wetland Assessment to improve the effectiveness of the constructed wetlands.
“We need to make sure that any actions we or others take are effective. This means that all agencies and partners will also need to gather more information before making any decisions that might change the way the Karaaf Wetlands functions,” she said.
Council is partnering with Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, land managers (including The Sands Owners Corporation) and agencies responsible for the Karaaf Wetlands to ensure the best overall solution, Ms Seymour said.
“The Karaaf Wetlands has strong cultural and environmental values, and we are working with Wadawurrung Traditional Owners in healing and caring for the wetlands and the broader cultural landscape.”
“We are awaiting news that the Federal Government’s $1.9 million election commitment as part of its proposed Urban Rivers and Catchments Program will be funded in the October 2022 Budget and will support these improvements,” she said.
Council is holding an open information session at 6pm on Thursday 27 October at Council offices in Torquay for those interested to learn about the stormwater and environmental assessments’ findings, meet the report authors and hear from Council representatives about how the findings will be used.