Ordinary Council Meeting - 26 March 2015


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9        General Manager Report

9.8     Successful funding application "Rescuing our Waterways Program" NSW Trade & Investment  Crown Lands.............................................................................................................................. 2    






Ordinary Council Meeting                                                                                                  26 March 2015

General Manager's Report

ITEM 9.8      SF732              260315         Successful funding application "Rescuing our Waterways Program" NSW Trade & Investment  Crown Lands


AUTHOR/ENQUIRIES:    Grant Nelson, Strategic Planner; Michael Coulter, General Manager         




The purpose of this report is advise Council of the successful funding application under the rescuing our waterways program. Council has been offered $10,000 from the NSW Office of Trade and Investment Crown Lands to undertake a Dredging Strategy for priority navigation areas in the lower estuary.


Should Council wish to accept the funding it needs to be matched via a Council contribution of $10,000 with advice to Crown Lands by 2nd April 2015.





1        That Council note the successful funding application for the preparation of a dredging strategy for the lower estuary.


2        That Council decline to accept the funding offer at this time as it will be unable to provide the 50% funding contribution towards any substantive maintenance dredging program and that NSW Trade and Investment Crown Lands be advised accordingly.





1.       That Council accept the funding and allocate $10,000 from the Environmental Levy to comprehensively investigate sustainable solutions to shoaling in the lower estuary and key navigable waters. The strategy will allow Council to determine the feasibility of any future dredging and identify alternative sources of funding.


2.       As per option 1 above except that the $10,000 funding not come from the Environmental Levy but be sourced from elsewhere in the budget.






The Rescuing our Waterways program has been reported to Council on 27 March 2014 and 26 June 2014.


At its meeting on 26 June 2014 Council resolved to apply to the program to undertake a Dredging Strategy for the lower estuary when the next funding round opened. Staff submitted an application to the program in December 2015, and the Minister for Natural Resources, Land and Water recently announced the funding has been successful for an amount of $10,000 to be matched by Council [Attachment 1].


Investigations into undertaking maintenance dredging in the lower estuary have been identified by Council’s Nambucca River Estuary Management Plan which was prepared in consultation with the community and various river user groups. Management Strategy 14 states the following and is attached.  [Attachment 2]:


Management Strategy 14 (Medium) Address localised shoaling and erosion problems and improve navigable access where practical and most needed in the lower estuary giving consideration to the likely effectiveness, costs, and benefits of works as well as the potential impacts.


Minor Dredging Costs


Despite support for the minor dredging in the strategy and by various river user groups, indicative costs of even minor maintenance dredging are high and the relief will likely be temporal in nature.


Council’s budget situation is such that there is no confidence that Council will be able to afford the matching funding required for a maintenance dredging program.  As outlined in the report dated 27 March 2014, initial estimates for minor dredging and ancillary works range between $300,000 & $400,000.


Cost estimates for dredging in the Nambucca River Estuary Management Plan are highlighted as $10/m3.  A more recent paper prepared for a Coastal Conference (Navigation Dredging – improving outcomes through partnerships and beneficial use of dredged materials) identifies indicative costs at $13/m3 with typical dredging projects undertaken by LPMA fitting into the following broad categories:



The same paper also notes the following:


The cost of undertaking a dredging project can vary enormously according to material composition, the presence of contaminants, site conditions, scale of the project, disposal options and market forces/timing. Accordingly, historical costs or rates are not always an accurate guide to predicting the cost of a dredging project.


In addition, there are substantial fixed costs associated with dredging projects. The component cost of mobilising and demobilising a dredge can sometimes exceed the component cost of dredging, particularly on small projects. Once established, a decision to vary the contract volume within certain limits can be made based on the attractiveness of the tendered dredge rate.”


There is the potential that the investigation determines there may be minor improvements that could be made in certain locations that are more affordable. For instance, minor work near boat ramps may be able to be undertaken utilising a long reach excavator however this would only provide very localised improvements.


Scope of Investigation


Should Council resolve to support the investigation, the scope of the dredging strategy would be generally as follows:


·      A major dredging campaign has been ruled out by previous studies (namely the Nambucca River Estuary Study and Plan, as well as the Nambucca River Masterplan) on the basis of the high initial implementation cost and requirement for significant ongoing maintenance costs e.g. dredging of the river mouth is not to be considered.


·      The investigation would focus on priority navigation areas within the lower estuary as part of a minor dredging campaign.


·      The strategy would establish the key project requirements and would develop a dredging methodology to ensure that the project meets the operational constraints and environmental requirements in an efficient, timely and cost effective manner.


·      A report would be provided, including the following information:


-       Introduction outlining the purpose of the report and background to the project

-       Overview of the existing site conditions, including bed levels, hydrodynamic, geotechnical conditions as well as social and environmental constraints, potential impacts or benefits;

-       Definition of the dredging requirements including required navigation widths/depths, appropriate side slopes and associated volumes for removal within each priority dredge area, as well as opportunities for beneficial reuse of dredged material within the sediment transport system (these requirements would be defined through focused community consultation work which would build on the extensive consultation undertaken by GHD in 2014 as part of the NSW Government’s Recreational Boating Study)

-       Dredging strategy outlining appropriate plant and equipment and preferred construction methodology

-       Construction program and order of magnitude cost estimates

-       Environmental planning approval requirements

-       Recommendations


The Strategy would provide Council with the information necessary to undertake a feasibility assessment based on the availability of internal funding. Assuming the project is deemed feasible, the strategy would also provide the technical information required to complete an application for funding from the NSW Government under the Rescuing Our Waterways Program. The strategy would also examine other funding strategies.


A component of the strategy would be to undertake community consultation which would provide for all views in relation to the dredging to be considered.




The report will aim at providing Council with the information for it determine if the future minor dredging works are feasible.




Should Council wish to proceed with the project there is no funding in the general budget which can be committed to the project.


There is $7,000 of uncommitted and unallocated Environmental Levy funds from the 2014/15 financial year that could be allocated to the project and it is expected that the additional $3,000 could be raised through unallocated environmental levy funds in the 2015/16 financial year.


Council has received a submission from the Nambucca Valley Conservation Association (NVCA) in respect to the use of the Environmental Levy funds to support this investigation. NVCA opposes the use of the Environmental Levy funds to support the investigation raising the following key points:


-       NVCA is mindful of the considerable expenditure by Council on previous studies that examined this matter including the Estuary Management Study and Plan

-       Dredging does not provide any environmental benefit and most likely will have a negative impact on the environment; and

-       Dredging may disturb contaminants, disrupt estuarine habitats and breeding areas and interrupt coastal sediment processes.


These points are noted and in regard to the existing studies, other members of the community share a similar view that no further funding should be allocated to ‘investigation’, their preference would be to direct funds immediately to works. As already indicated the Estuary Management Plan supports actions to address localised shoaling (management Strategy 14). In this regard Council does not have the internal resources to fully investigate the issues, processes, priorities and other related issues associated with dredging and as such an investigation is required to provide Council with a comprehensive understanding of the issues and solutions. Council should not commit to any works without first being fully informed on the matter.


In respect to the other points regarding the environmental benefit and impact, a significant component of the dredging strategy would be to determine what the environmental impacts dredging may have on system or what benefits it may provide to the local environment and the community as well as on going environmental monitoring requirements. Any investigation and/ or future dredging activities should ensure that a sustainable approach is taken to the consideration of financial, ecological and social values of the system.


In many cases it is the environment that the community interacts with the most that is under the most pressure for sustainable management solutions. The Environmental Levy funds contribute to many projects which are not isolated to promoting natural resource benefits or improvements.  Often the environmental levy funds projects that examine the way in which our community interacts with the environment and how best to manage and/or provide sustainable solutions to these interactions. Examples of such projects include the Coastal Zone Management Plan; Flood Risk Management Study, the Nambucca River Masterplan and the Estuary Management Study and Plan.





General Manager







The preparation of a dredging strategy would give consideration to environmental impacts that may be associated with future works.




The preparation of a dredging strategy would give consideration to social impacts that may be associated with future works.




The preparation of a dredging strategy would give Council a clear understanding of the future costs of actual dredging and provide Council with an opportunity to forward budget for a future program of works.


Council needs to determine how it will contribute the matching funds to the preparation of the Dredging Strategy.




There is no direct risk associated with the preparation of a Dredging Strategy, however Council risks raising the communities expectations by preparing a strategy when funds to undertake the actual works are unlikely to be available.





Direct and indirect impact on current and future budgets


Council needs to commit $10,000 to the dredging strategy should they wish to proceed with the project and accept the funds.


Councils environmental Levy has $7,000 of un-committed and unallocated funds available in the 2014/15 budget which could be directed to the project. It is expected additional $3000 could be committed from unallocated levy funds in the 2015/16 financial year.


Note from General Manager


More broadly, with indicative costs for even a minor maintenance dredging program of $300,000 to $400,000, Council will not be able to afford its 50% contribution without drastically cutting existing programs either within the Environmental Levy budget and/or across its capital works program.  Without wishing to labour Council’s financial position it has an operating performance ratio of -17.8% and has some way to go to lift its “weak” financial sustainability with a “negative” outlook.


It is imperative that Council’s available funds be directed to improving its operating performance ratio and particularly the renewal of its road and bridge assets.  In the current local government parlance, a maintenance dredging program represents a new service that Council has not traditionally funded.  It will be introducing this new service at a time when it is not properly funding its existing services.  As Council is aware the introduction of a new service will create expectations that Council will continue to fund the service.  This is of concern given the dynamic nature of sediment in the lower estuary.  It is entirely possible that $300,000 to $400,000 of expenditure will be redundant with the movement of sediment during a flood or over a longer period through longshore drift.


Whilst this report only considers the preparation of a $20,000 dredging strategy there seems little point in embarking on this if the Council does not have the capacity to responsibly finance the report’s recommendations.


Source of fund and any variance to working funds




Service level changes and resourcing/staff implications


Should Council choose to proceed with the project the majority of work would be undertaken by external consultants, nevertheless staff time would be required to manage the process.




7454/2015 - Successful funding 



8456/2015 - Management Strategy 14



8457/2015 - 2015-dredging study letter



Ordinary Council Meeting - 26 March 2015

Successful funding application "Rescuing our Waterways Program" NSW Trade & Investment  Crown Lands


Ordinary Council Meeting - 26 March 2015

Successful funding application "Rescuing our Waterways Program" NSW Trade & Investment  Crown Lands


Ordinary Council Meeting - 26 March 2015

Successful funding application "Rescuing our Waterways Program" NSW Trade & Investment  Crown Lands



Monday, 16 March, 2015


Mr Michael Coulter,

General Manager,

Nambucca Shire Council,

PO Box 177



Dear Mr Coulter,


Re: Council proposal to use Environmental Levy money for a ‘Dredging Study’


The Nambucca valley Conservation Association (NVCA) is aware that Nambucca Shire Council has been offered $10,000 by the NSW State Government for a ‘shoaling study’ to be matched dollar-for-dollar from rate-payers’ Environment Levy money.  The funds are intended to pay for what is termed a Dredging Strategy/Study for the Lower Nambucca Estuary in the Grant Application Report in Council’s Business Papers for its Ordinary Meeting of 15 January 2015.


Whilst studying the shoaling of the river in itself is not a threat to the many identified environmental values of the lower river estuary, dredging of the river is.  Given that the underlying, publically stated intent that drove the application had channel dredging of the river as its ultimate goal, the NVCA wishes to make clear its strong opposition to the use of Environment Levy money for such a study.


NVCA is mindful of the considerable expenditure by council on previous studies and reports which address the shoaling of the lower estuary, namely the $205,000 Nambucca River Estuary Study 2006 and Nambucca River Estuary Management Plan 2008 (BMT WBM Pty Ltd) which deals extensively with shoaling and entrance conditions.


Dredging does not provide any environmental benefit and in fact is most likely to have a negative environmental impact.  Dredging would potentially disturb contaminants, disrupt estuarine habitats and breeding areas and interrupt coastal sediment processes.


Dredging of the river has been and continues to be a controversial subject in the Nambucca given the historical promotion of dredging purely for the purpose of improved boating access.



We trust you will take our comments and concerns into consideration, when choosing how to utilise the Environmental Levy money raised from your constituents.


We look forward to receiving your response to our request on this matter.


Yours sincerely

Georgette Allen, President


By email

Followed by hard copy by mail

(also signed by Lyn Orrego Committee Member NVCA)