Council to stop Tamar silt efforts

A new report has presented several options for tackling the Tamar River silt problem.
A new report has presented several options for tackling the Tamar River silt problem.

The Launceston City Council will halt its Tamar River silt dredging program from July 1, in an effort to persuade the State Government to take responsibility for the problem.

Launceston Mayor Albert van Zetten yesterday announced the council would not continue its $500,000 program to dredge an estimated 30,000 cubic metres of silt a year from the river.

Environment Minister Michelle O'Byrne said the State Government - which provided about half of the funding for the dredging program - would have a response to the report within two weeks.

Alderman van Zetten said the council looked forward to Government deliberations about the most appropriate solution.

"Launceston ratepayers should not have to foot the bill for a Northern Tasmanian issue," Alderman van Zetten said.

"While we understand many people are concerned about the amount of silt deposited in the upper Tamar, the council is questioning whether it is the appropriate organisation to be funding a dredging program. The State Government owns the river and the sources of sedimentation are substantially outside the Launceston municipality."

Alderman van Zetten made the announcement after releasing the $450,000 GHD sedimentation study report, which has advocated the creation of a major new dredging program.

The report has recommended a $5 million capital dredging operation in the first year followed by a yearly $1 million dredging program.

Such a program would remove an estimated 150,000 cubic metres of silt in the first year, followed by 50,000 cubic metres each year afterwards - a large increase from the council's 30,000 cubic metre dredging program.

The $5 million capital dredging operation would have to be repeated every 10 years.

The GHD report examined four options to deal with silt in the Tamar River:

• Maintaining a minimum navigation channel.

• Continuing with the existing 30,000 cubic metre dredging strategy.

• Creating a new, major dredging operation.

• The construction of silt traps.

GHD spokesman James Burbury said continuing with the council's strategy was found to be the least viable choice, while maintaining a minimum navigation channel was the council's only current economically viable option.

However, Mr Burbury said the creation of a new dredging program - if funding could be found to proceed with it - offered the broadest range of benefits.

Ms O'Byrne said the State Government would now examine the GHD report.

"We are not going to rule out any future options because we will now take this data (and) in the next few weeks we will be able to make a response on the State Government's position on the future of the Tamar River," Ms O'Byrne said.

Opposition environment spokeswoman Sue Napier said it was obvious a state authority was required to manage the Tamar River.