Working in Harmony on Flood Cleanup

Media Release

The Harmony V was a 50 foot Ferro Ketch and one of many boats left forsaken along the banks of the Burnett River and our coastal shores following the January floods.

Its owner, Roger Hartwell, was aboard his vessel in the floods when it was hit by another vessel, broke its mooring and was swept down the Burnett River, continuously being battered by debris and other vessels.

Mr Hartwell‘s ordeal lasted 36 hours before he was air-lifted from his boat with his small dog,  her new-born litter of four and a few possessions.

The last five months has proved challenging for Mr Hartwell. He has not only lost his uninsured home, but  he has also faced the  harrowing task of organising the vessel’s removal made worse by the theft of valuables and property from the boat as it lay in mangroves by the river.

Harmony V_smlAssistance in the removal of the Harmony V has been provided by a unique and timely collaboration between local natural resource management group, BMRG, Queensland and local government authorities and a team of volunteers. Bodies including the Departments of Natural Resources and Mines, and Environment and Heritage Protection, Maritime Safety Queensland, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service,  the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, as well as Bundaberg Regional Council have been working together specifically to address the issue of post flood marine debris such as boats and pontoons.

BMRG CEO, Penny Hall said that these large marine debris items left stranded as a result of the floods created public safety and environmental concerns.

“The floods left pontoons, some weighing up to 13 tonnes, and a number of vessels at the high water mark on our coastline and the along the banks of the Burnett River. It was really important that we acted quickly to remove these items as they were starting to break up on each incoming tide.”

“The potential environmental issues caused by this marine debris breaking up and entering the marine environment are significant. Some of the pontoons had Styrofoam floats and we were faced with the threat of millions of tiny styrofoam balls which do not breakdown easily over time and are harmful when ingested by for marine species such as turtles”

“Removing these large marine debris items was a difficult and costly exercise. Each pontoon and vessel presented its own challenges in terms of access for the heavy machinery required to complete the task and the need to manage disturbance to sensitive environmental areas they ended up in.” she said.

“Each of the parties involved in the collaboration have worked together very effectively to address regulatory considerations and remove these items quickly and safely. The combined effort has been very impressive.”

The effort of local contractors, Christensen Industries and Bundaberg Slipways has also been instrumental in removing boats and pontoons. Russell Hausler, owner of Bundaberg Slipways, itself heavily impacted by flooding, generously reduced his fee in order to ensure that the removal and disposal of the Harmony V with the funds remaining to complete the project.

The Harmony V was the last of a total of 8 boats and 9 pontoons removed through the project from various areas along the river and a stretch of coastline from Agnes Water to Innes Park.

Each pontoon and vessel presented its own challenges in terms of access and removal and getting the heavy machinery required to conduct the removal to the site

This debris removal program is part of the Government’s ex-Tropical Cyclone Oswald recovery program. This program,  which is funded by the Queensland and Australian  governments, aims to help the primary producing areas in Queensland that were most heavily impacted by flooding caused by ex-tropical cyclone Oswald get back on their feet and become more resilient to future events. The funding is being used particularly to support and promote the recommencement and continuation of agricultural productivity, improving water quality and the health of aquatic and riparian ecosystems, reducing the impacts of debris on vital infrastructure and helping protect community safety and amenity.

BMRG will continue its flood cleanup program with the focus now moving to assisting cane farmers with the removal of flood debris and rubbish from cane farm paddocks in order to assist this year’s cane harvest.