Blog

Where it all begins…

Basalt at Bunbury Back Beach, by Glenn Crouch, Aegir Photography

The main reason Bunbury is here at all is because of the lava flows 137 million years ago that created the Bunbury Basalt. In outcrops from Bunbury to Black Rock east of Augusta, it has been a major geological feature that has shaped our coastline for millennia.1.

Basalt = lit. ‘very hard rock’

At Gelorup, Indigenous people used the basalt for toolmaking for thousand of years, striking it against the quartz rock from Boyanup (= ‘place of stone’). Europeans began quarrying the basalt at the back beach in Bunbury, but later moved quarrying to Gelorup, where as early as 2002 the WAPC recognised “It is of particular significance to the State and the South-West Region as it is a near surface deposit with high and consistent quality, and has good accessibility to the Greater Bunbury and South-West markets.  The resource has a quarrying life of 30 to 50 years… It is considered to be in the States interest to maintain mining access to the resource.”2.

The near surface rock was acknowledged by the WA Dept of Mines as being “of strategic importance for the entire Bunbury Region…  used … for general building and construction as well as precise specification, (unusually) high strength concrete aggregate, hard stand construction, road formation construction and has unusually favourable properties for top dressing bitumen roads…”3.

The Dept of Mines continued to state that “… the high specification of the rock results in it being transported as far as Perth and Albany for certain projects”   and critically, “No other alternative sites for other rock with similar specifications have been reported in the region.” “The Gelorup locality has the lowest production costs of all of the possible alternative sites for Bunbury Basalt, in a large part due to the proximity to the market. As for all basic raw materials, the cost of transport is a significant component of the overall cost.  The wider community benefits from having a suitable relatively low cost, long term supply of aggregate from the Gelorup locality.  For example, savings from lower construction costs of infrastructure such as roads and public buildings can result in more public funds for other community projects and services.”4.

These are strong economic and future thinking arguments for retaining access to this strategic resource.5. So you can imagine my dismay and frustration when Main Roads WA proposes to use $852 million of State and Federal Govt money (our money!) to ‘sterilize’ ie waste over 13.6 million tonnes, or $683 million worth of basalt!

Continued in the next Post – ‘”… and where it could all end.”

REFERENCES / CREDITS

  1. Vivian, Geoff, (2016) Supercontinent rift formed bizarre Bunbury rocks, retrieved from https://phys.org/news/2016-05-supercontinent-rift-bizarre-bunbury.html. Image by Glenn Crouch, Aegir Photography.
  2. Western Australian Planning Commission (2002) Gelorup Basalt Quarry Buffer Study.
  3. Capel Shire Council Minutes – 13 Feb 2002, p 51(Submission from the Dept of Mines and Petroleum) on a Quarry Licence Extension Application
  4. ibid.
  5. For more information, check the supporting documentation for Capel Shire Council Resolution (OCM 219/2019), and from Item 14.2 of the Capel Shire Council Ordinary Council Meeting of 16 Dec 2020.

…and where it could all end

The State Government knows that both the Bunbury and Busselton coasts are recognised as hotspots for coastal erosion.  They know there is a need to “…facilitate a strategic approach to coastal erosion management efforts” and that “…appropriate management of coastal assets is required at all hotspots.” 1.  

The recommendations on page 7 of the report above include “iv. Review the demand for, cost and availability of, basic raw materials for coastal protection, including coarse sand for renourishment and rock for construction of erosion mitigation structures.”

In the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation Climate change in Western Australia, Issues Paper, September 2019, 2. it states on p 24 that 

“Projected sea level rise will lead to significant areas of flooding in vulnerable cities and towns, with coastal erosion and damage to low‑lying coastal infrastructure.  Infrastructure and settlements along Western Australia’s coasts, in particular Mandurah, Bunbury, Busselton and Rockingham, are vulnerable to climate change.”

“Up to 28 900 residential buildings, 2100 commercial buildings and 9100 km of Western Australia’s roads will be at risk towards the end of this century.”

The WA Govt knows climate change presents real and foreseeable threats… so what is it doing about it?

“… While future coastal developments will incorporate a coastal foreshore reserve, providing a buffer against coastal hazards, in some cases active management of coastal areas will also be needed. Examples include where infrastructure requires a coastal location (e.g. ports and harbours), where existing coastal protection structures are deteriorating or in the case of extreme weather events.” Active management, or coastal erosion mitigation. includes building seawalls, groynes or breakwaters. The main raw material required? Heavy rock aggregate. The cheapest and closest in the SW? Gelorup basalt.

On the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation website, it states that “Likely impacts of climate change for Western Australia include …  increased risks to coastal settlements of coastal erosion, saltwater inundation and storm surge flooding.”3.

Enter, stage left: Main Roads WA, with their 50 year old plan for the Bunbury Outer Ring Road…

… the southern section of which buries and therefore wastes over 13 million tonnes of basalt, valued at @ $680 million.  This basalt or blue-metal, is worth almost as much as the entire BORR!  It is a strategic resource has been used in every road, footpath and concrete floor from Harvey to Busselton. 

This basalt has been doing the job, protecting this part of the coast for 137 million years.  It would be reprehensible, given the advice from the government’s own departments, for the McGowan government to ignore that advice and waste millions of tonnes of this strategic resource by building a road over the top of it.

It’s ironic and frankly embarrassing that Main Roads and the WA Government would waste all that road building material under a road! Even if they don’t want to use it for building roads or concrete house pads, they should at least quarantine it for 50 years so that it’s available for future generations to use for critical coastal mitigation. 

BUT ARE THERE ANY ALTERNATIVES? The answer is YES! See the next post on THE GOLDEN ROUTE

Then come March 13 2021, you can send MRWA, Mark McGowan, Rita Saffioti and Don Punch a clear message when you vote!

REFERENCES

  1. WA Department of Planning Land and Heritage and Department of Transport (2019) Coastal Erosion Hotspots in Western Australia, July 2019, Information Sheet, https://www.transport.wa.gov.au/mediaFiles/marine/MAC_P_CoastalErosionHotspotsInformationSheet.pdf page 5.
  2. WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (2019) Climate change in Western Australia, Issues Paper, September 2019 https://consult.dwer.wa.gov.au/climatechange/issues-paper/user_uploads/climate-change-in-wa_2019.pdf
  3. WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (2020) About Climate change in WA, Likely Impacts https://www.der.wa.gov.au/your-environment/climate-change/252-about-climate-change-in-wa?showall=&start=4

The Golden Route

This is MRWA and the McGowan government’s current plan for the BORR, and below it, a better plan, that saves 13 million tonnes or $680 million worth of basalt, over 5000 habitat and foraging trees for critically endangered possums, and 6 of the world’s largest trees of their individual species.

MRWA and the McGowan Government’s plan for the BORR. Note Dalyellup at the bottom of the image.
The Golden Alternative Route.

From an economic basalt perspective…

… this isn’t a case of there’s simply no alternative route.  It isn’t a ‘red route through Gelorup versus a green route through farmland issue’ either.  That area is further south from this point.  Both of those routes would have wasted this resource.  This is a case where the only sensible, sustainable alternative hasn’t even been considered.  That’s why we at the Western Australia Party are advocating this ‘Golden route’ that links across the top of the quarries to connect the Central BORR to Bussell Hwy at Centenary Road.  This has the least impact on the basalt.  Note that the Golden route follows a path that is already earmarked for a connecting road to the BORR, so we’re not even advocating a new route; we’re just saying expand that link that you’re already planning to build,  to provide the required 4 lane connection to Bussell Highway.  If that means MRWA need to modify Bussell Hwy from Centenary Rd south to Woods Road, so be it. That’s why we’ve added a northbound flyover on Bussell Hwy to allow easier access to Norton Prom.

Note also – all the traffic that is going to use the BORR to travel south of Bunbury is currently using Bussell Hwy through Dalyellup / Gelorup at the moment anyway. It’s not going to suddenly double or triple overnight just because the BORR is built, regardless of wherever it’s built!

From an economic tourism and environmental perspective…

… it’s just crazy to build a road through the southern most part of the Gelorup corridor. This is where all the habitat / foraging trees and the Giant trees are. Their tremendous tourism potential should be recognised, celebrated and developed to compliment the Dolphin Discovery Centre, the Ferguson Valley, etc. For more, see the “Tourism Titans” post…