The Peel-Harvey estuarine system is badly degraded. The system shows signs of severe eutrophication (nutrient enrichment), which results in excessive algal growth. The algae live on the nutrients, and multiply rapidly, stifling life in the Estuary in warmer weather. The algae accumulate on the shores of the Estuary and rot, causing odour problems, polluting the shore, and killing wildlife and fish. This results in a significant reduction in the recreational, environmental, social and economic values of the area.
The cause of the eutrophication is an inflow of nutrients (mainly phosphorus and nitrogen) from the coastal plain catchment into the Estuary. The nutrient inflow is currently far above the Estuary's ability to cope - hence the huge production of algae.
Implementing plans for the coastal catchment of the Estuary takes time, and in the meantime the Environmental Protection Authority is still receiving proposals for development. Some of these proposals are contrary to the pians to save the Estuary, and the Authority will recommend against these. Some others can be environmentally acceptable, provided the appropriate controls are in place to protect the environment and especially the Estuary. The Authority will assess these proposals as they arise. However, it is important that land holders in the Estuary catchment are given a clear picture of the sorts of development which are acceptable. That way unacceptable proposals should not be put forward, and anyone who buys land in the catchment can know in advance which things they will and wont be able to do on the land.
This Report examines proposals for residential development. This form of development can involve clearing, drainage, on-site sewage disposal, and the fertilising of public open space and domestic gardens, all of which can be environmentally unacceptable in the coastal plain catchment of the Estuary. However, in some situations it is possible to plan a residential development with appropriate controls on these activities, given the co-operation of the Local Authority, so as to make the development environmentally acceptable.
The assessment covers five proposals - see Schedule 1, page 2 of the EPA's report (Bulletin 478) for details. The EPA concluded that one of the proposals was environmentally acceptable if the recommended conditions applied, and that the remaining four proposals do not satisfy the environmental capability assessment, and recommends that they would be environmentally unacceptable. The Ministerial Statement for the only approved proposal is below.