Residents and users of the Tamar River tired of the sediment build-up in the estuary have taken aim at the Tamar Estuary Management Taskforce, with calls for the body to be made independent of government.
Despite the anger, stakeholders from all levels of government have backed the body, saying it has the authority needed to fulfill the $140 million river health plan funded by the Launceston City Deal.
The Tamar Estuary Management Taskforce was developed as a part of the city deal and has representatives from all levels of government and other stakeholders such as NRM North, TasNetworks, Infrastructure Tasmania and the Launceston Flood Authority.
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It was a key component of funding from the federal government as part of the Launceston City Deal, of which the Tamar River is a major component.
Since The Examiner began its campaign to call for more action on the Tamar River in November, residents, businesses, developers and other users of the river have all joined the call.
All of them are saying that the time for talk is over, it's time for action.
Frustrated residents and lobby groups, such as the Tamar Action Group, and members of the Tamar Yacht Club, say at no time since its creation has TEMT consulted the groups how to improve the estuary for its users and the residents.
The groups' recent criticism of TEMT has been that it appears no significant action for the river's health has been taken, although they acknowledge some work has been done.
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Tamar Action Group spokesman Andrew Lovitt said TEMT had proven "largely ineffective" in its role and said any regulatory body needed to have the ability to work independently of the government.
"Already you could say that TEMT has failed in its five-year existence," he said.
Mr Lovitt acknowledged TEMT had done some work in improving water quality, the latest report from NRM North shows the water quality in zone 1, Launceston to Legana, has improved from an F grade to a D grade, but he said water quality was only one part.
"Water quality is not the only problem facing the river," he said.
"There would be some who would make the argument that the wildlife could flourish there more, which is great, but you still can't swim, fish, or boat there."
Mr Lovitt said TAG would ramp up its efforts and was calling on TEMT to show good faith to the community.
"It's simple really, to show good faith to the community, TEMT should reinstate raking," he said.
However Mr Lovitt said raking did help with build-up.
"If there is another more effective solution than raking, we'd love to hear it."
Tamar Yacht Club spokesman Ken Gourlay echoed frustration at the lack of any real change in the river.
Mr Gourlay is Australia's fastest solo, non-stop and unassisted circumnavigator and is a life member.
He grew up on his father's sailing boat, and then had his own moored in the Tamar River for many years, before the sediment build up made it impossible, and he moved, along with the Yacht Club's headquarters, to a marina at Beauty Point.
The Tamar Yacht Club broke its silence over the river situation last year and has gone to the state government.
"The reason we've spoken up and gone to the government is we want answers. At no time since I have been a member at the Yacht Club has anyone from TEMT ever come to us with a survey, a plan or anything, or asked us about what we'd like to see."
Mr Gourlay said while he might not go as far as to advocate for an independent authority, he said TEMT needed to engage more with river users to find a holistic solution.
"TEMT is there to find solutions for the river, they should be the voice to government, but it doesn't appear they are the voice to anyone."
He said any solution to the river needed to consult with those who use it most.
"We have been here for 150 years, we have seen the changes. We would be open to more engagement."
However, government bodies have thrown their support behind TEMT, saying it is the most effective way to improve the estuary and its plan, the River Health Action Plan, was working.
City of Launceston mayor Albert van Zetten said TEMT was a "once-in-a-generational opportunity".
"With clear, evidence-based goals outlined in the River Health Action Plan, and more than $140m in state and federal funding, it is the first time in the history of Tasmania that such a diverse taskforce has been empowered to improve the health of the estuary," he said.
"Improving the health of the kanamaluka / Tamar estuary is a process that will take years to achieve, but gains are already being made."
He said the taskforce had already overseen the roll-out of programs that had already seen great success.
"The sewerage intrusion project alone will remove more than five Olympic swimming pools of sewage from the estuary every year, and has arisen through collaboration between NRM North, the West Tamar Council, Meander Valley Council and the City of Launceston," he said.
Member for Bass Bridget Archer said the long-term health of the river was an issue she'd advocated for over a number of years.
"The health of our river has always been a long-term challenge which all levels of government are actively working to address," she said.
"However, I wholeheartedly understand recent frustrations expressed by some members of the community over the current state of the river. This is a community issue and it's important all views are heard."
Ms Archer said while there had been improvements through the River Health Action Plan, there was still a long way to go and agreed that the aesthetics of the river also needed to be considered in future plans.
A State Growth spokesman said it was unlikely a single authority would be able to achieve the massive investment that TEMT is undertaking through the City Deal funding.
"Given the number of organisations and interested groups involved with management and oversight of the estuary, there needs to be a collaborative approach," he said.
"The membership of the TEMT means each organisation has a direct interest and combined goal in the future of the estuary and can leverage dedicated funding in a coordinated way."
He said TEMT's programs, such as stock out of waterways and the stormwater connections program had already improved the water quality in the estuary.
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The spokesman said sedimentation was a normal part of how the estuary functioned.
"Contrary to some wide-held beliefs, sedimentation is completely natural in the estuary - it is how the ecosystem works and supports animal, fish and plant life," he said.
"It is important that any action on the sediment or mudflats takes into account their environmental importance while balancing social, community and economic needs."
NRM North, which works alongside TEMT through the Tamar Estuary and Esk Rivers program said management of the estuary was "a long-term proposition" and TEMT was best placed to manage future plans and change.
"The projects in the river health action plan are being rolled out over six years, which is an appropriate time frame for such a large investment," NRM North chief executive Rosanna Coombes said.
"Substantial progress in the past two years has been made in the catchment, with over 150km of fencing to exclude stock completed and 65 per cent of stormwater cross-connections already rectified."
Ms Coombes said investment in management of the estuary had been ongoing for many decades, even prior to the establishment of TEER.
"Upgrades have been made periodically to the stormwater and sewage system by individual agencies, including major upgrades in the 1960's, as well as adding disinfection to most wastewater treatment plants in the 1990's and increasing storage in the Margaret St detention basin in 2003," she said.
"These improvements have reduced the pathogen count in the yacht basin from 3.8 million bacteria per 100 mL of water in the 1990's to an average of less than 500 bacteria per 100 mL in the 2010's."
Ms Coombes said the TEER program had created a robust water quality monitoring program that underpinned a model to help decision-makers understand the threats and impacts of decisions.
"TEER also developed the Water Quality Improvement Plan to identify feasible options, throughout the system and across agencies, for reducing pollutants, enhancing ecosystem health, and improving water quality; this has formed the basis for recent investments through the Launceston City Deal.
"NRM North is working collaboratively with TEER and TEMT partners and support the investment that is being made to improve water quality."