I read with some amusement the letter by Robert Kear (Newcastle Herald, 17/5) informing us of a new exotic species invading our urban waterways, Shoppingtrollius gigantus.
I can assure Mr Kerr and your readers, that populations of this species can be found in almost every urban waterway at any given time across our nation. This species has become such a problem that national ‘departments’ have been created by our major supermarkets to deal with it – Trolley Trackers is just one.
The problem is that these organisations only deal with one aspect of the issue – that of retrieving abandoned trolleys when reported. Some of the supermarket chains don’t even provide this service.
As a former government employee in the environmental industry for over 25 years I have personal experience with the problem of Shoppingtrollius gigantus in our urban creeks. There is a solution to the problems in Scrubby Creek – what is required is a healthy dose of willingness, co-ordination and funding.
Lake Macquarie Council has the power to remove the trolleys from the creek and charge the owners a fee to collect them. The problem is that the owners simply ‘forget’ to collect them as it is cheaper to purchase new trolleys than pay the Council fees.
In the case of Scrubby Creek four things need to happen:
1. Lake Macquarie Council as the primary landholder/manager of the creek must take a leadership role and bring all of the key players together to work co-operatively to fix the problem. This includes: the owners of the trolleys, Mount Hutton Shopping Plaza, Trolley Trackers, NSW Housing responsible for tenancy in the Windale area, Council’s own Regional Illegal Dumping (RID) squad, rangers, Council’s social planner, CiviLake and assistance from the federally-funded Green Army;
2. Council needs to procure a targeted management plan for Scrubby Creek that is focused on action and on-ground works to rehabilitate the creek for the long term. This plan needs to outline the actions that will be taken to clear the creek of shopping trolleys and strategies for keeping them out. The plan also needs to outline a staged works program to remove weeds and willow trees that are choking the creek, trapping sediment and causing flooding on neighbouring properties and roads;
3. Creek rehabilitation in the form of structural works to restore a more natural flow. This work must be followed up by mass plantings of native trees and shrubs that once flourished along the banks; and
4. The work needs to be staged from the top of the catchment downstream to ensure that removal of trolleys, sediment, debris and willows does not cause more problems. Issues of vandalism, ongoing rubbish dumping and abandoned trolleys should be monitored closely using the resources available through the Council’s RID squad and rangers in co-operation with NSW Housing and Council’s social planner.
Council tried to initiate a Landcare group to help restore Scrubby Creek for several years and it hasn’t worked – the job here is way too large for a community group to handle and must seem overwhelming for residents. A greater sense of ownership of the creek is an outcome that will result from the restoration work. This project, although challenging, could define how urban creeks are restored and managed for future generations.