Home' Ausmarine : February 2011 Contents For a Melbourne Cup Day, the mood of the evening
meeting was far from frivolous. The professor from the
University of Queensland opened the meeting at the Mount
Cosby State school, regarding the elimination of Brisbane
The loud and misguided Green campaign had been in action for
a couple of years and gained the support of Mayor Jim Soorley,
who was too eager to appease what he mistook as a majority.
The 200 local residents had already reached their verdict and
tonight was the execution of 100 years of Brisbane river dredging.
In this new world order the unsightly Pioneer and Boral river
dredgers causing bank erosion from their bow waves, would no
longer be tolerated and the whole process would be replaced by a
quarry operation and truck movements.
The opening slides by the professor were damning. A large gum
tree with a considerable lean towards the river showed the effect of
bank erosion. Other shots of bank collapses with small garden
pagodas hanging precariously over the edge. Were the shots of the
Brisbane River? Who could tell?
After about ten shots on bank erosion, the "culprit" slides were
shown. In a similar propaganda move that Hitler used very
effectively before World War II, where photos of textile workers
were shown intermittently with shots of rats, vermin and rubbish,
the ancient river dredgers with their slewing cranes were shown
amongst the bank erosion shots.
The average dumb-assed spectator in German movie theatres,
watching these anti-Jewish propaganda newsreels in 1940 joined
the pictorial dots and came to the conclusion that yes, Jews were
responsible for all unhygienic conditions in the "Fatherland".
The public in Mount Cosby State School that night were
similarly bluffed by an articulate academic and his slick slide show.
The first guest speaker introduced by the professor was a
"marine barging expert" and, amidst much murmuring and muted
boos, the consultant mounted the stage.
The consultant had only been appointed four days before
by the Premier's Department, as the earlier consultant had left
in a hurry having read the signs. But his homework had been
In a spirited defence of the river dredgers, he showed a slide of
frictional resistance and wave resistance.
"These river dredgers, carrying 2,000 tonnes with a 300kW
diesel engine, are just capable of overcoming the frictional
resistance but cannot make any waves. In other words if you were
on a surf ski paddling down the river looking for a suitable bow
wave to ride on, the Brisbane River dredgers are the last vessel you
would pick," he said.
He explained in detail that these vessels just left their depots in
the morning and went whichever way the tide was running and
anchored at a suitable spot and grab-dredged until full, then made
their way back on the change of tide.
Infuriating the audience, he then announced that council
records showed that many riverside residents had illegally
reclaimed land at the back of their gardens encroaching onto the
river with assorted rubbish and poor quality revetment walls.
Hence many of them were collapsing under the slightest of waves,
sometimes on their own.
He then showed pictures of locally-built, 17-metre flybridge
cruisers with a bad stern trim and in a pre-planing mode on the
weekend inspection by fatcats of riverfront properties. He
explained that here was 1,800kW, six times that of a Brisbane River
dredger, generating a series of 1.2-metre waves and very effectively
eroding the riverbank. This edged the audience towards rage, as
this wretched man was changing the agenda!
Then with a cross-sectional diagram of the river, he explained
that not only does Brisbane have an everlasting and cheap source
of sand and gravel from the river, making concrete and bricks the
cheapest in the country, but it is a key method of keeping the
depth in the river as a flood mitigation tool. Masses of published
research evidence is available on the subject, he assured them.
"Now to the noise," he led them, "the river dredgers emit only
70dB at the stern whereas replacing them with 650 truck
movements through the suburbs daily not only would hugely
increase the noise and greenhouse gas emissions, but will endanger
your children at the same time!"
With faces beetroot-red with rage, the audience kept silent as he
finished his "do this at your own peril" summary.
The Premier's Department contacted him the very next
morning and terminated the consultancy. The agenda, including
the outcome, obviously had been agreed, and this twit was not in
So as that ex-consultant, I just shook my head in dismay
watching the Brisbane River floods on TV. Even a 300-500mm
difference in water levels makes a huge difference to some houses
and businesses, and the enquiry will establish that continual river
dredging could have dropped the flood levels.
During the floods, I was meandering up the Saigon River in a
small ship and shortly afterwards on the Chao Phraya River in
Bangkok, observing multitudes of crane barge grab-dredgers and
low-powered barges that are anchored until the tide changes.
How is it emerging economies can recognise common sense and
we are too weak to stand up to belly-aching minority groups with
agendas that are blatantly stupid?
With STUART BALLANTYNE
THE EDUCATION OF AN
Selling Brisbane down the river
February 2011 AUSMARINE
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