Management of Tallow Creek and its entry to the ocean has changed since a major fish kill.
Management of Tallow Creek and its entry to the ocean has changed since a major fish kill.

Process that led to fish kill ‘flawed to its core’

A REPORT into operational changes to the management of Tallow Creek and its entrance to the ocean was acknowledged by Byron Shire Council at its meeting on Thursday.

The council artificially opened Tallow Creek on the morning of June 14 last year.

The following day, about 12.4 tonnes of deceased fish were removed from its banks.

The fatalities mostly consisted of mullet, bream, whiting, flathead and eels.

The entrance to the ocean had been closed for about eight months and water levels were high for 15 weeks prior, resulting in “considerable community complaints” about the inundation of backyards and infrastructure, council staff said in their report.

Having been closed for so long, the system experienced an “absence of tidal flushing, vertical stratification and poor water quality”, the report said.

A week before the council mechanically opened the entry to the ocean, staff undertook berm scraping. But rainfall forecast for after this work didn’t eventuate and the mouth did not open naturally.

Councillor Michael Lyon said it had been “a very distressing experience for many members of the community” when the matter went before the council on Thursday.

Cr Lyon urged people not to simply look for someone to blame. He said much work had been done to iron out the procedures that allowed the fish kill to happen.

“For me, what’s out of place is the desire from our community for retribution and blaming of people,” he said.

He said the council and other agencies had been “working hard” to secure the best possible outcome for the creek.

Cr Cate Coorey put forward an amendment, seeking for ­reports on maintenance to be made available and for the council to apologise to the community for the fish kill.

This change didn’t receive enough support.

“I was in Sydney at the time but I got a call from friends who were frantically trying to save fish,” she said.

“I feel that we should issue an apology to the community because there was over 10,000 fish that died that day.”

Mayor Simon Richardson stressed the council was just one of numerous agencies responsible.

“The process we were dealing with was flawed, I’d say, to its core,” Cr Richardson said.

He said the estuary would be “far better managed” than before after discussions with stakeholders that followed a June 27, 2019 resolution to take a range of actions.

The council has allocated $110,000 in its 2020–21 budget to begin work on the Coastal Management Program for the shire’s southern coastline, including Tallow Creek.