Oyster reefs being prepared for trial on the Noosa River.
Oyster reefs being prepared for trial on the Noosa River.

Council’s bid to shell out $200k for oysters

Noosa’s ambitious and contentious river oyster restoration project, which has already seen ratepayers shell out $179,237 of an overall bring Back the Fish $1.2 million funding package, could create friction in the newly-elected council ranks.

Mayor Clare Stewart as a council candidate was scathing in the lead up to the March poll on the previous council’s Bring Back the Fish support.

Mayoral candidate fishing for oyster funding answers

This included the oyster reef scheme to grow oyster reefs from shell waste.

Councillors at Thursday’s ordinary meeting will vote on a staff recommendation to approve an oyster restoration management plan, which has been referred to Monday’s general committee for discussion.

Cr Stewart during the election campaign rated the project to date a failure.

The initial trial of oyster reefs, made of shells in bound matting, resulted in 10 of the 14 reefs removed from the river and dumped due to damage mostly from boat strikes.

“If I find any evidence of a neglect of due process in these monies being granted, I will pursue these matters to their fullest extent,” the mayoral hopeful said in February.

When Cr Stewart was campaigning, she said residents were “disgusted at the blatant and disgraceful waste of ratepayer dollars”.

Dr Ben Gilby of USC, NPA's Bryan Walsh, NBRF's Clare Cartwright and Mayor Tony Wellington withan oyster reef
Dr Ben Gilby of USC, NPA's Bryan Walsh, NBRF's Clare Cartwright and Mayor Tony Wellington withan oyster reef "sausage" at the Goat Island trial site.

“Many of those residents who have discussed this with me are of the opinion that the dead oyster shell fiasco was doomed to fail,” she said.

“People who are experienced with the live oyster and fish populations in the river will tell you that dead oyster shells are simply that … dead shells.

“They have no life and they attract no life.”

Council, as part of its funding deal with The Nature Conservancy, is due to pay a further $200,000 if the project has demonstrated “measurable outcomes”.

A report to council by environment services manager Craig Dolan said the management plan “contains significant detail and clearly illustrates the skill and commitment of project partner The Nature Conservancy to effectively monitor, evaluate and report on the project”.

“Having Noosa Council linked with one of the globe’s most successful onground conservation organisations, and it’s highly skilled network of scientists and project managers, has the potential to reap benefits for Noosa beyond the scope of just this initial agreement,” Mr Dolan said.

“COVID-19 has created some specific challenges for the project, especially around meaningful engagement with the community, including starting citizen science opportunities.”

One of the concerns raised as to the viability of carrying out the reef restoration is the availability of local oyster shells as part of ‘Shuck don’t Chuck’ program, which has been put on hold.

“This was enthusiastically received when TNC members spoke with businesses in November 2019, however the ability of this program to provide adequate sources of base oyster shell to the project, while the local economy recovers, may be challenging,” Mr Dolan said.


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