by Peter Gardiner
BURGESS Creek at Sunrise Beach is already showing signs of nutrient stress which may worsen under proposed state government water quality protection policy changes.
A report presented to Noosa Council said the proposed changes for the Noosa River catchment would ease the minimum standard of water quality in "moderately disturbed” areas of the Lake Cooroibah and Lake Weyba catchment and the creeks draining to the eastern beaches.
Moderately disturbed areas include developed or farmed land.
"The entire suite of nutrients will be able to significantly increase in Burgess Creek by between 40%-933%.
"Burgess Creek already shows evidence of stress in the environment from excess nutrients.”
Environmental staff do not support the changes due to "an inadequate understanding of the socio-economic impact of the changes”.
Councillor Brian Stockwell said the state's bid to set new quality objectives based on water quality data from only the past 10 years would see existing protections diminished.
He said the changes would pave the way for some consistently poorly rated waterways in disturbed catchments to be reclassified as healthy, without any actual improvement to water quality.
"Essentially, the state is proposing to relax sediment and other nutrient level objectives to bump up water quality scores, when it should be implementing changes that genuinely meet the environment's needs,” Cr Stockwell said.
Council has raised these and other concerns in its submission to the state.
"As custodian of one of the healthiest waterways in South East Queensland, we feel the state should be focusing its efforts on meeting the needs of the natural environment, rather than paving the way for the water quality in stressed environments to be considered acceptable,” he said.
The council report said agreeing to the changes would endorse existing environmental stress and remove future compliance "in the already impacted areas”.
"The clarity of waters flowing from moderately disturbed areas in Cooroibah catchment flowing to Lake Cooroibah, will be legally allowed to become slightly visually murkier.”
The Department of Environment's policy draft said the environmental values used for the water quality policy review would be informed by comments from the community and industry as a result of this consultation process now under way.
The draft said the proposed SEQ water quality objectives were derived from analysing 170,000 samples across 2940 sample sites from 1994 to 2017, examining 12 indicators of water quality such as nutrients and suspended solids.