The Guardian August 18, 1999


Adelaide's urban Kakadu:
Protecting the Port from pollution

DAVID KIRNER takes a close look at a world-renowned environmental 
paradise that receives little recognition in Australia and is now 
threatened by industrial development. As they travel by boat, four locals 
talk to David about the hidden treasures of Adelaide's Port River and 
surrounding waterways.

On a Zodiac [inflatable boat] on the waters of the Port River Estuary, 
Barkers Inlet and The Cutting are Le Fevre Peninsula residents Brian Gillan 
and Tom Abbott; the vice-president of the Conservation Council of South 
Australia, Dr David Close; and the manager of the St Kilda Mangrove Trail, 
Steve Vines.

As the Zodiac moves through the sea waters, Steve Vines discusses the 
environmental dangers and feared disastrous impacts on local waters, if the 
proposed National Power Pelican Point power station and the newly proposed 
Australian Steel Corporation shipbreaking facility go ahead.

On the way into The Cutting a flock of Chestnut Teals fly by a collection 
of Pied Cormorants, their wings in the sun, holding them open to dry.

A Fiddler Ray swims beneath the boat in water of glass-like clarity and you 
can see how healthy it looks!

According to Steve Vines, there are Fiddler Rays here that are six feet 
across  the size of the boat.

There is clear vision to the root strands of seagrass moving with the 
currents on the bottom of the sea bed. The water clarity on the Port River, 
along The Cutting and into Barker Inlet puts paid to the myth of a filthy 
river.

Understanding Adelaide's urban Kakadu

There is a nexus between the site of the Pelican Point environment and an 
adjacent internationally renowned habitat, Barker Inlet.

Barker Inlet and the Port River Estuary is the Kakadu of Adelaide. As an 
area of environmental importance, it also has a chance of being listed 
under the international Ramsar wetlands agreement.

World renowned Bird Island at risk

The Barrier Island, locally known as Bird Island, is not included in the 
environmental impact survey for the potential impacts of the proposed power 
station's thermal effluent plume.

Bird Island was created by natural littoral drift, shoreline drift caused 
by prevailing southerly winds.

Bird Island is very close to Pelican Point and there are several Pelican 
rookeries (breeding grounds) on the island. In The Coorong, there are 200-
metre development, or human activity, limits in place to minimise risks to 
breeding birds.

On Bird Island there are Ibis nesting, Sooty and Pied Oyster Catchers, 
Caspian Terns (a scarce bird) and Crested Terns, all within 20km of a major 
city.

There are Kelp Gulls in their tens of thousands. Bird Island is the largest 
Silver Gull colony, close to Garden Island and Wingfield dumps.

There are White Bellied Sea Eagles from north of the Gawler River that take 
chicks from Bird Island on the Northern Section Bank.

Dangers to Dolphin feeding ground

Mother and calf dolphins are common to Pelican Point. The dredged shipping 
channel provides a dolphin feeding ground. Pelican Point is now a 
significantly important dolphin habitat.

The entrance to Barker Inlet from the Port River is known by locals as The 
Cutting and is important for spat (fish in the early stage of the breeding 
cycle).

In hot water

The thermal intake and outlet from the power station will marginally reduce 
the species travelling in the vicinity of cooling water intakes and thermal 
effluent outlets by releasing chlorine and by increasing the temperature to 
the waters, particularly in the immediate vicinity of The Cutting.

The King George Whiting breed at Kangaroo Island and then a proportion come 
up into Barker Inlet through The Cutting.

Sea stew

At the moment, we have a crowded marine environment protecting us from 
marine introduced species. The thermal outlet will denude native life and 
create landing sites for exotic species from ballast water.

It will be a "sea stew" with outfall water that will be chlorinated. Darwin 
has already experienced this problem with the Tiger Mussel, which cost $7 
million in damage and clean up costs.

Barker Inlet provides a $7 million prawn hatching area, a King George 
Whiting habitat and a key recreational fishing resource.

Algal blooms, pollution

The power station development and the shipbreaking facility will cause 
considerable damage to this environment. In addition to the things already 
mentioned, there will be a host of other problems. Seagrass will be 
affected by algal blooms occurring from hot water.

Pollution will affect floating spat and crab larvae. The biggest pollutants 
are from effluent, followed by stormwater and then industrial pollution 
such as from Penrice [soda ash manufacturer further down river].

There will also be increased air and noise pollution. In obvious and gross 
terms, sound travels across water and the high level of noise from Torrens 
Island indicates the type of impact that can be expected from noise 
pollution from these two new developments.

To find out more about Pelican Point and local community action groups 
fighting to protect it, contact David Kirner (08) 8449 7446.

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