Posted on September 5, 2022
Alfred Gude has owned a cruise business on Launceston’s Tamar River for the past 15 years and he says when water levels are high, it’s a good day.
“We’re in the wet times at the moment, the river is quite fat, it’s quite full. So, no dramas at the moment, we’re all good,” he says.
With the recent rain, conditions on the river are mostly picture perfect.
But it’s a different story at low tide and during Tasmania’s drier months.
At low tide especially, Mr Gude says it’s vital to “stay in the groove” of the channel.
“If you stay in the channel, no dramas,” he said.
“It’s still really navigable at this stage. However, if we get into the dry times, it could be a different story. That’s when we will need some dredging.”
Local businesses ‘frustrated’ by lack of action
Alex Britton says the view from his restaurant window is unsightly with customers looking out onto a “sloppy, muddy mess”.
“I think there have been a lot of promises made by the politicians that haven’t been kept,” he said.
“It’s not good. In the mornings, it does have a bit of a smell too and you do get a lot of tourists coming through who comment on it.”
Launceston’s Seaport is a hub of restaurants and businesses and Mr Britton said more needed to be done to manage the mud.
He is one of many locals along the stretch to display “fix the mud” signs in his windows — a public campaign aiming to raise awareness of the silt issues.
“More needs to be done, the tourists comment on the mud a lot, it’s an eyesore,” he said.
“There are four or 500 workers down here, at least 10 businesses.
“A lot of locals see this as a meeting point for the town and I absolutely think more should be done.
“There are things that can be done, but nothing is being done.”
So why hasn’t a solution been found?
How to fix the mud in Launceston’s Tamar River has been an ongoing battle for years.
In April 2021, the state government promised to consult with all members of the Tamar Estuary Management Taskforce (TEMPT) on how best to manage the ongoing silt.
Four million dollars was also committed over the following two years for a dredging program to be established.
In 2018, the state and federal governments also committed nearly $95 million to improve the Tamar Estuary.
That funding was committed by then Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who said at the time, “the funding would help rehabilitate the river”.
Dredging and raking the silt are the most common options, but both are only temporary solutions.
Raking is when the river bed is raked or stirred up during an outgoing tide to promote the release of silt.
Local residents and businesses say the silt normally returns to where it was not long after both raking and dredging.
The Tamar Action Group would like to see a freshwater dam built near the Batman Bridge.
The group said the water could be sold for irrigation and other projects, while the dam itself would essentially stop the silt from flowing downstream.
“This project by selling water to the irrigators, selling water to the hydrogen proponents, can indeed raise a lot of income,” Andrew Lovitt, Chair of the Tamar Action Group said.
“It would create a huge lake of freshwater, that freshwater is currently being destroyed because it goes out into Bass Strait without being used.
“And then of course the incoming tide brings all the saltwater and the pollution back up the river.”
It’s estimated to cost about $500 million and the group would like it run as a Government Business Enterprise.
“Freshwater is one of the world’s most precious commodities and 99 per cent of the water for sewerage and drinking water for the world comes from behind barrages or dams,” he said.
“So it just needs the one elegant solution to stop the tidal movement bringing the muck up and to stop the freshwater being wasted.”