Money is the line in the sand for Nambucca River mouth solution

The only way anything could be done about the sand build-up at the V-Wall is if a fully-funded grant falls into our lap.

Council General Manager Michael Coulter said he doesn't think there'd be any objection to a navigational channel being dredged through the Nambucca estuary, if it wasn't so inhibitively expensive.

Current State funding arrangements require councils to match the grant dollar for dollar.

And with up to a million dollar pricetag for establishment dredging, according to Mr Coulter, the issue is dead in the water.

"If it was fully-funded though, we wouldn't be having this discussion," he said.

But on the other hand, if you got the money and carried out the dredging work, how long are you going to have relief for? You could be having exactly the same discussion in another five years.

Longshore drift from the southern beaches causes shoaling in the mouth. Cyclical floods create a scouring effect which pushes some of the sand out again. But when drought hits, this 'flushing out' is delayed.

The last time the sand built up like this and stirred the community into action was at the end of the Millennium drought in 2007.

There have been suggestions made by members of the community that money wouldn't be a problem if Council allowed a commercial operator to extract the sand.

Mr Coulter said the big obstacle there is current state regulation which means any sand must be kept within the coastal environment.

"There are instances where NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) will approve dredging and reclamation, such as for essential public navigation and environmental rehabilitation purposes. However, it's unlikely the activity would be allowed if it would reduce water quality, damage or destroy marine vegetation, damage or destroy riparian vegetation, gravel beds, reefs, or snags, or interfere with commercial and recreational fishing or aquaculture activities," DPI said.

And there are legal impediments from Crown Lands and the Office of Environment and Heritage too.

Mr Coulter also said he personally didn't believe the reality of a commercial operation in an otherwise pristine coastal environment would be popular with locals.

"It's a somewhat ugly exercise. You've got a pipeline floating across the waterway, a substantial land-based depot to store and wash the sand, trucks to transport it, the risk of diesel spills. I don't know whether people would really want that," he said.

And that's before you consider the damaging effect the turbidity, increased sedimentation, and possible damage to seagrasses and mangroves would have on the ecosystem and our fish stocks.

He said Council had not yet "undertaken any consultation" on what wide-scale dredging would mean, and there are no finances laid out in this financial year to fund the removal of sand.

Locals have questioned whether a southern breakwall would better serve to keep the channel open.

Mr Coulter said there had not been any geomorphological studies done which looked into this as an option, but pointed out the flow-on effect of problems and maintenance costs where breakwalls had been erected elsewhere.

"The natural migration of sand has been impeded by the breakwall at the Tweed which means they're having to spend buckets of money transporting sand from one side to the other. And that's an ongoing cost," he said.

You need to be really careful when you start fiddling with natural processes.

At this stage, it seems the best move is a rain dance.

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