Man arrested on beach trying to save fish

A FRUSTRATED Holloways Beach resident who was handcuffed and dragged off the sand when attempting to open Barr Creek has accused the council of prioritising completion of a controversial footbridge ahead of environment protection.

On Sunday Matt Male was arrested and taken to the Cairns watch house - he was later released without charge.

"My crime? Attempting to open the mouth of Barr Creek to prevent an imminent fish kill event from occurring," he said.

"Barr Creek has been blocked from tidal flow for months and council has ignored all calls from local residents to open it, claiming it is not their jurisdiction when all other agencies have stated quite clearly that it is.

Cairns Regional Council signs warning of unlawful creek openings. Picture: Peter Carruthers
Cairns Regional Council signs warning of unlawful creek openings. Picture: Peter Carruthers

 

"It appears the construction of a bridge far outweighs concerns for wildlife and the environment."

Davbridge Constructions was awarded the contract in July to build the 150m-long bridge linking the suburbs of Machans and Holloways beaches at the Cairns city end of the Northern Beaches Leisure Trail.

Cairns Regional Council has erected large signs at the Machans Beach side of the creek warning that "unlawful creek openings are under surveillance".

But the council's general manager of infrastructure services, Bruce Gardiner, denied police were tipped off by local government officers.

The mouth of Barr Creek showing low water levels. Picture: Peter Carruthers
The mouth of Barr Creek showing low water levels. Picture: Peter Carruthers

 

"Council did not call the police, but the contractor did due to concerns about people encroaching on the construction site," he said.

Mr Gardiner said the council did hold a permit that allowed the creek to be open.

"However, several trigger criteria must be met before these can be used and these conditions have not been observed," he said.

One State Assessment and Referral Agency condition on the bridge going ahead states "installation or removal of pile structures must be avoided when the mouth of Barr Creek is open".

"To minimise the impacts on fish migration, fish spawning and the flowering and fruiting of marine plants," the document stated.

 

Barr Creek has been closed to the ocean for months. Picture: Peter Carruthers
Barr Creek has been closed to the ocean for months. Picture: Peter Carruthers

The state government planning authority eventually gave the council the green light to proceed with the controversial $8.5m footbridge after queries by the regulator went unanswered by council in July.

Holloways Beach resident Bob Rankin said volunteers were trying to dig a trench to save fish the fish population from dying.

"Digging to let water in is a last resort. Council have a permit to open it but refuse," he said.

"Heavy handedness by police would seem to be somewhat overkill for a nondescript very minor offence."

Mr Gardiner said "Observations last week indicated that the aquatic life was not in distress".

 

 

Originally published as Man arrested on Cairns beach in bid to save fish



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