Documents reveal Fremantle Port Authority committed to cleaning up beach debris 23 years ago


Beach walkers Peter McLarty, left, and Paul Martin want the FPA to honour commitments to clean up rubble and contamination Sandtrax and Port beaches. Picture: Andrew Ritchie.
Beach walkers Peter McLarty, left, and Paul Martin want the FPA to honour commitments to clean up rubble and contamination Sandtrax and Port beaches. Picture: Andrew Ritchie.

THE Fremantle Port Authority made a commitment 23 years ago to clear debris at family beaches – an issue that has come to the surface once again in 2018.

The FPA made the commitment to the Environmental Protection Authority in 1995 to dig out the debris at beaches now littered by rocks, asbestos, tiles and glass eroded near land reclaimed at Rous Head, North Fremantle.

“Removal will be arranged by the FPA using either a large excavator equipped with a special bucket or by a front-end loader during period of calm at low tide,” the FPA said in the commitment at the time.

OPINION: Debris needs to be cleaned up before someone gets hurt

Since January, and in 2016, beach erosion has exposed rubble, the shards and old sea defence boulders at Sandtracks and Port beaches next to a 27ha reclamation from 2009.

The debris collects between the low and high water marks, has injured swimmers, and is claimed to have washed as far as 1km north to Leighton Beach.

The debris is spreading north from Sandtracks (bottom) to Port (middle) and Leighton (top) beaches, and old sea defence boulders are uncovered in the shallows Picture: Andrew Ritchie

The FPA’s 1995 commitment concerned limestone or rubble from any new seawall and reclamation, but since January it has claimed the current debris could have come from other sources including 19th and 20th century dumping and old beachside industries.

The commitment was missing when the FPA got the EPA’s nod to dredge Fremantle Harbour for the 27ha in 2009.

Approving the 1995 proposal, the EPA recommended the FPA “implement a strategy for management of the affected beach” after any erosion, but the 2009 recommendations only committed the FPA to monitor and inspect the shore’s stability.

“We just want it fixed, and the FPA or the council should send down a front-end loader every day it appears, because they just seem to be waiting for winter for it to go away or be covered up,” daily beach walker Peter McLarty said.

An FPA spokeswoman said it was working with the council and government departments on future management of the rocks.

Asked about the 1995 commitment, the spokeswoman said shoreline monitoring was conducted until 2010, hydrographic surveys of the beaches continued, most recently last November, and divers did not find rocks coming from the reclamation six months earlier.

A Fremantle Council spokesman said long-term monitoring and management of the “complex issue” needed all levels of government to collaborate after a council-organised meeting with the FPA and departments, and warning signs would be erected and the beaches monitored daily to see if “unacceptable risks” required closures.

Rous Head land reclamation timeline

1988: 27ha for harbour

1995: 5ha proposed

2009-10: 27ha built instead

2016-2018: rubble on beaches

Sources: FPA, EPA, witnesses.