The Amenity sub-committee is responsible for managing and maintaining the common property within the Sands Estate – the lakes, the waterways, the weirs and the land between the water and the Sands Estate’s housing.
The sub-committee also monitors the water quality in the system, the reeds and weeds in and around the system and the sediment levels in the lakes.
Storm Water Management
The Sands’ lakes are central to storm water management across North Torquay, consolidating flows and “filtering” a significant amount of the storm water run-off before discharging into the Karaaf Wetlands. In addition to this very important function, the lakes are a delicate ecosystem that is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, and provide aesthetic and other qualities much valued by the residents of the Sands.
The predominant source of contamination of our lakes emanates from soil erosion across building sites and development lands in estates above the Sands. These stormwater flows enter our lake system via Sands Amenity Lake 1 (ie. lake in between 1st and 2nd fairway) via retention ponds within the Dunes and Zeally Sands. There is an argument, not substantiated, that these existing retention pond systems are over-burdened, particularly at times of peak flows that happen after a significant rain event. There are other sources of storm water inflow that are not captured by existing settling pond infrastructure, for example across the Stretton development, which are not “pre-treated” in any way before they arrive in Sands Amenity Lake 1. The nature and quantity of contamination is beyond the Sands lake’s capacity to filter and settle effectively, and the source is beyond our direct control to rectify. We therefore need to influence other parties, principally Council and Developers to clean up the storm water inflows in order to give our lakes a fighting chance to do what they are designed to do.
The initiatives arising from our first engagement with Council (Jan 19th) placed focus on the stormwater controls (or lack thereof) at building sites above the Sands. Subsequently Council undertook extensive site management plan compliance audits and instigated action to improve compliance on building sites. Pleasingly we did see visible evidence of corrective action – hay bales and other temporary filters, temporary down-pipes, removal of site debris, etc.
The focus then shifted to the bare tracts of land cleared by developers creating estate infrastructure. The Stretton development, for example, is “unprotected” in that its runoff is not being trapped. Over the time that we have been engaging with Council we have seen a new condition imposed upon the developer wherein the developer will not be able to commence works on the next stage until the retention pond system is constructed. This will be beneficial into the future but offers nothing in the short term.
Due to subdued inflows, the water quality did improve across the dryer months however the current rains have re-established the flow of contamination. In all likelihood, the benefits of improved building site compliance is probably masked by the impacts of the continued expansion of new estates without adequate settling ponds to pre-treat the run-off before it enters the Sands.
Council did undertake a review of the Torquay North Stormwater Management Plan and concluded that no change is required – that is the Council is convinced that the planned infrastructure is appropriate. That said, estate development (earthworks and construction) has and continues to advance ahead of the development of the planned stormwater infrastructure so it should be no surprise that the downstream lakes and in turn the Karaaf Wetlands are from time to time inundated with contaminated inflows.
Recognising that the rain season was coming our most recent effort has been to enlist Council’s support to bring the effectiveness of the existing sediment basins that feed the Sands lakes up to best condition in order to do the job they are designed to do. There has been some action here but not what we wanted as Council’s call is that the basins are in working order. Council have however recognised that more can be done on the building sites and they have now enlist the support of the EPA to assist with compliance management.
In summary, there is no one party that is responsible for the contamination in our lakes. Council is however best placed to motivate and effect change that can directly improve storm water quality thus our efforts will continue to be directed at how we assist and influence Council to take action. To that end we are looking to other key stakeholders that can assert influence – parties such as Parks Victoria who have stewardship of the Karaaf Wetlands which is part of the Bremlea flora and fauna reserve. Direct engagement of Councillors and potentially the media, whilst tried before, need to be and are being considered again.
Our work continues…
GHD have submitted a proposal to provide design services and to develop work instructions to inform a tender of the weir restoration works. A second quote for this initial tranche of work is to be sought. Proposals will be sought from credentialed and experienced vendors to provide full end-to-end management across the weir repair project to include managing the tender and taking ownership of the project.
Winter rain has significantly increased the visibility of contamination in our lakes. Council had taken some action, albeit not all that we wanted, to better prepare the upstream retention ponds at Zeally Sands and Dunes, but to little or no avail. (Refer Council Letter). Council have now engaged the EPA to assist with building site compliance. Council has also reviewed and reaffirmed the Torquay North Stormwater Plan which is reassuring for the future but doesn’t alleviate the current concerns. In fact, until Torquay North has the entire prescribed infrastructure in place and working effectively, and erosion reduced to levels consistent with a mature estate, we are very likely to see a continuation of the contamination of our lakes. We have commenced a review of ours and Council’s water testing which again will be beneficial into the future but offers little in terms of fixing the contamination in the lakes right now
Quotes are being sought from suitably experienced organisations to rehabilitate the ponds once the water infeed quality is brought to the expected level of cleanliness. There are several options available (e.g. dredging, flocculation, etc.), each with pros and cons, hence we expect this process to take quite some time to bring to a recommendation (hence the early start to the knowledge acquisition stage). We have also instigated this process as we need to understand the costs if we pursue other parties to undertake the works at their cost (note – legal position has not yet been reviewed).
Plant life is critical to the health of the lake system and warrants review from time to time, especially now when some reeds are starting to foul water flows and weirs. GHD have been engaged to inspect the Sands’ lakes to generate a report that will inform next steps to:
- review the current condition of vegetation and flora since their 2017 report
- identify and make recommendations towards a systematic programme for the removal/eradication of weeds and invasive species
Aerial photo of the wetlands at the Barwon Heads end of The Sands Estate.
In-house efforts to repair the weir between the 1st and 2nd fairways have failed with repairs being breached at the first heavy rainfall to follow completion of theneed to repair the the weirs is unchanged understanding that a major failure could be catastrophic in terms of loss of water, lake amenity, damage to infrastructure etc. As such the estate amenity sub-committee have sought out suitably qualified and experienced organisations to quote the conceptual engineering, project design and works management. Quotations will hopefully be received and assessed before the end of the current rain season so that a preferred vendor can be selected and ready to commence work once the rains abate. Works will be scoped to include the construction of a new weir at the bottom of amenity lake 5.
Unwanted reeds are now reaching problematic levels in some areas of the lakes. As such the estate amenity sub-committee have reached out to GHD Consulting in the first instance to provide advice in relation to measures that can be taken to control these infestations of reeds, and other weeds that populate our lake boundaries. As with any major works a second vendor will be identified to quote on the required work.
Concerns have been raised in relation to the lack of clear identification of the entry points into the Sands estate, this being particularly evident following the connection of St Georges Way and Lowtide Drive. The estate amenity sub-committee is investigating options to place signage at the entry points into the Sands Estate having regard for the other stakeholders which include the golf club, WCG and the Council.
Finally there is a private sewer located adjacent to the Esplanade that services the houses along the Esplanade with the Sands. the sewer may not currently meet the requirements of Barwon Water who are the natural owners of the sewer, as they are of all the other sewers that service the Sands Estate. A project has been activated to understand the options available to WCG and OC1 to move, upgrade if necessary, the private sewer to an entity better placed to maintain such a facility on-going, namely Barwon Water.
Estate Tree Health Report
Drysdale based arborist “Let’s Talk About Trees” conducted a visual inspection of all street trees on the estate. You can view the report by clicking on the button below.