Sending out an SOS for a lake in trouble
THEY will be sending out an SOS in chemical masks and hazard suits for Hearnes Lake, an ecosystem locals fear is dying a death by a thousand cuts.
The Sandy Beach Action Group (Sandbag) is holding a rally to call for tighter controls to protect the lake from over-development and the expansion of intensive agriculture.
It will be held on the shores of the lake on Saturday at 10am.
Marchers can meet at the Sunken Chip at 9.30am or you can take your kayak straight to the lake.
Peter Quiddington has been living in the area for about 10 years and says he used to happily swim in the lake but wouldn't dream of it now.
"It was once used for all kinds of activities - swimming, fishing and kayaking," he said.
"It's now become a danger zone for humans, not to mention the impacts being felt on the wildlife in this high-value wildlife area.
"This is a high-value asset, filtering the water that comes down the river into the marine park - it's just crazy to be destroying that," he said.
He's outlined a "litany of woes", including a fish kill linked to the powerful nerve toxin chlorpyrifos, which is banned in a number of countries and been linked to adverse brain development in unborn children.
Southern Cross University research, commissioned by Coffs Harbour City Council, reported nitrogen oxides loads in Hearnes Lake that were "amongst the highest reported for catchments on the East Coast of Australia and similar to loads in rivers throughout China, Europe and India with strong agricultural or urban influences".
And with wrangling over the Sandy Beach North proposal going on for nearly a decade, Mr Quiddington has pointed out the sad irony for any potential home buyers.
"This might prove not to be an appealing location to live any more," he said. "While plans for this very controversial development are in legal limbo, we now know from the various authorities that Hearnes Lake is an environmental disaster in progress."
A recent Land and Environment Court decision acknowledged that Elite, the firm behind the proposal, had "physically commenced" construction, by demolishing two houses adjoining the site, even though no actual building had begun.
The company still faces some legal hurdles in gaining development approvals for construction from Coffs Harbour City Council and the State Government and these matters will be the subject of conciliation conferences in August.
"What is needed for Hearnes is rehabilitation, not more construction," Mr Quiddington said.