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.