NOOSA RIVER SPEED CONSULTATION UPDATE #1
Marine Safety Queensland (MSQ) has commenced community consultation on proposed speed limit reduction changes in the lower part of the Noosa River (refer previous post). This follows a lengthy process of review and debate throughout 2021 by community representatives on the Noosa River Stakeholder’s Advisory Committee (NRSAC). The NRSAC committee represents the wider community including – fishing groups, yachting, outriggers, recreational users, environmental groups, ratepayers, commercial operators, river catchment management organisation, etc.
A number of questions have already been asked, and we have sent those to either MSQ or QPS and will post in a further update when received. This includes extra data that was presented to NRSAC as part of the process, which our office has asked for a copy of.
Following in italics is information provided from NRSAC, including recommendations made to MSQ for consideration and consultation around changes to speed limits:
- Maintain all existing speed limits upstream of the entrance to Noosa Waters.
- East of a line from the entrance to Noosa Waters north to the Noosa North Shore to the river mouth, this zone to become 6 knots permanently excluding Noosa Waters and the Noosa Sound residential areas;
- Noosa Waters and the Noosa Sound zone defined as the waters south of the entrance to Weyba Creek (a line east from Munna point to Culgoa Point to the entrance to Lake Weyba (inc. Kaiser Island area) and the waters east of a line running north from Culgoa Point to ‘Dogs Beach’ including Little Woods Bay and Woods Bay all being 4 knots permanently.
- John’s Landing – The subcommittee of the NRSAC reviewed the existing 6 knot speed limit and by majority voted in favour of returning to 20 knots as it was historically. Subsequently the NRSAC subcommittee was advised by Council that it considers that the 6 knot limit should remain as Council are in the early process of planning options for low key recreation, and reduced speed is consistent with that intent. Until such time as the future of this area is certain, no change should be made. The NRSAC will review the situation in the short-mid term again.
It is important to note that after interdepartmental discussions, MSQ have already changed this original recommendation so that the area under consultation is only from Thomas St (Noosaville Boat Ramp) to the river mouth.
The NRSAC subcommittee has articulated that its core values centre around 4 fundamental principles. With regards to ‘speed’ these are:
- Equity of Access: for Noosa residents and visitors – having a river that provides capacity for residents and visitors to safely enjoy it at any time and not one that is currently being used as an unregulated and growing boat anchoring (parking) facility by many vessels. The lower reaches of the river are most affected today due to Noosa’s growing popularity and as such has highlighted that existing speed limits are becoming a barrier for equity of access for all.
- Safety – a safe Noosa River for all: Overcrowding is seeing ‘pinch points’ or constricted areas in the river where existing speed limits – particularly at peak season, as being totally inappropriate for today’s conditions. Recreational users are increasingly reporting unsafe conditions and events such personal injury as a result of being thrown around in their vessel or from capsizing or overturning of small vessels such as outriggers, kayaks, rowing boats, canoes, fishing vessels, etc.
- Amenity: A good quality experience for all users: Community noticeboards, social media, sporting clubs, letters to Council, etc, are all more frequently reporting that there is a diminishing quality of experience for all river users. Most perceive that this in part is being caused by high boat speeds in congested parts of the waterway. Riverfront residents have become increasingly vocal about this and damage being caused to private infrastructure, vessels, etc.
- Environment: to protect the Noosa Biosphere: environmental damage to the Noosa Biosphere, particularly damage to benthic communities from increasing boat wash/wake stirring up sediments and propeller damage is of major concern. Foreshore erosion is also seen as a growing problem to both fauna and flora as well as private properties.
One particular area which the 13 community representatives of NRSAC have been focusing upon is safety. As there are greater and greater visitor numbers and growing use of the river, there has been concerns that we can do more – especially by way of signage, lighting, policing, etc. The NRSAC called for greater policing over the Xmas/NY break which saw Maritime Safety Queensland, Water Police and other state agencies officers highly visible and active. Despite all of this effort, it is disappointing to report that many boaters still disregard the rules. Sadly, most infringements were committed by Noosa locals!
Over 13 days (over the period 3/12/21-18/1/22), MSQ conducted patrols and intercepted 125 vessels for compliance checks/infringements. Of these, 34 were juveniles! One outboard was seized as the juvenile was unlicensed to operate a vessel with greater than 6 hp. MSQ issued 15 infringement notices of which the vast majority being for speed.
Water Police patrolled 8 days (over the period 6/12/21-2/1/22) and issued 48 Infringement Notices – 29 (60%) for speeding.
Additionally, the Noosa Outriggers and Noosa Yacht Club have reported minor injuries as a result of capsizing of vessels from boat wake.
What is of major concern is that most of the infringements occurred downstream of Tewantin, where as we all know, it has become quite cluttered with vessels both anchored/moored and underway (yachts, outriggers, ferries, canoes, hydrofoils, fishing boats, paddle boards, jetskis, houseboats, tour boats, etc.).
In real terms this is what it means to a boater going from 20 knots to 6 knots in the proposed zone:
- +10 mins 47 secs: Thomas Street boat ramp to start of 6 knot zone in Noosa Sound – 2 kms
- +13 mins 29 secs: Thomas Street boat ramp to the river bar – 2.5 kms
NRSAC urges submissions to MSQ on this topic, for details on making a submission click here
At the conclusion of the consultation MSQ will review the feedback and prepare a report for the Regional Harbour Master with recommendation regarding the speed limit for gazettal. If approved, the new speed limit would be gazetted and associated education, signage and navigational aid work would be undertaken.
For information on the NRSAC including the minutes of meetings click here.