Silting on uni campus raises serious questions

Heavy rain on Friday, June 9, led to soil-laden water flowing into the pristine wetlands of the campus from the recently cleared hillside on University Drive adjacent to the Callaghan Campus.  We all know that downstream siltation is a normal consequence of heavy rain on open soil, but the question to be asked in this day and age is when development occurs on bushland on a hillside, why are the principles of environmentally sustainable design and best practice water sensitive urban design not followed?

It is mandated that a Soil and Water Management Plan that illustrates how stormwater, runoff and soils will be managed on the site will be lodged with a Development Application. The plan should demonstrate the feasibility of both the proposed stormwater management system, including water quality, conveyance and discharge controls.

The plan should also demonstrate any proposed pre-, during and post-construction phase measures for the management of all site water, including ground and surface water.

Siltation is not the primary issue here, and it is not the heavy rain that caused the transfer and loss of soils from the cleared site. It is the wholesale clearing of moisture-retaining vegetation and soils from the site under the current development paradigm, which continues to scour and drain the land of life. This is the practice of desert making.

As a result of this incident and ongoing concerns for the unsustainable impact of the ‘business as usual’ approach to development, the university’s TFI will provide a short course in Land Hydration and Microrelief for planners, designers, project managers and land owners seeking to meet ESD obligations and community expectations for responsible land and water management.

Tim Roberts, Peter Stevens and Nigel Stace, of the Tom Farrell Institute for the Environment at the University of Newcastle.