Karaaf Wetlands Report – key findings…
Karaaf Wetlands Report
In July 2001 the developer and therefore the current lot owners in the Sands, as the developer’s defined successors in the 173 agreement, and the Surf Coast Shire Council (SCSC) signed the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) which was an essential requirement of the 173 agreement which enabled the Sands Estate to be developed. The focus of the EMP was the protection of the Karaaf wetlands which form the eastern boundary of the Sands Estate. One of the critical risks to the Karaaf wetlands, which is a saline wetland, identified in the EMP was the freshwater impacts of the stormwater generated by the Sands and all the feeder developments above it.
In July 2011 the chairman of the Sands Owners Corporation (OC), Tim Freer, sent a letter to the CEO of the SCSC expressing the OC’s concern about both the quality and the volume of the stormwater entering the Sands and subsequently the Karaaf from the Zeally Sands and the Quay developments. Since then most of North Torquay has been developed and its stormwater drains into the Karaaf via the Sands lakes and waterways. The OC has tried to work with the SCSC, who are joint signatories to the EMP, since 2011 to resolve the stormwater issues without success. The key issues are:
- All the feeder wetlands to the Sands, Zeally Sands, The Dunes, Stretton and the three wetlands of the Quay Estate are in very poor condition and are therefore unable to treat their stormwater properly;
- The stormwater volumes predicted by the current North Torquay Master Plan are being exceeded and the plan does not include the Quay Development which makes up a third of the catchment;
- The Karaaf is now suffering algae blooms even in winter and the saline flora is suffering from significant dieback;
In 2021 the OC commissioned a report from a highly respected consultancy Water Technology to review the hydrology of the North Torquay Catchment and its consequent impact on the Karaaf wetlands. The report will be used to launch a campaign to get both the quality and quantity of the North Torquay stormwater managed effectively with clear responsibilities and accountabilities for all parties – the SCSC, the developers, the builders, the OC and the various authorities with accountabilities such as DELWP, Parks Victoria, Corangamite Catchment Authority and GORCC.
The key findings of the report are:
- The pre development stormwater flows are being exceeded by 915 million litres annually and that assumes that all the wetlands above the Sands are working effectively which they are not:
- The “Fraction Impervious” accepted by the SCSC for the North Torquay developments was 45% when the industry standard was between 70% and 80% for lot sized between 300 and 600 meters square. This had a substantial impact on the predicted stormwater volumes and the sizing of the developer wetlands;
- The stormwater quality was very poor because the wetlands were not being maintained and were too small to deal with the stormwater volumes being generated;
- The Karaaf was continuing to be damaged and was now being invaded by freshwater plant species and its saline vegetation was continuing to suffer from dieback;
The campaign to “Save the Karaaf” will commence in October and there will be regular updates posted on the Sands OC website.