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The Billy Lids picnic

The Dawn Fraser baths in Balmain received a multimillion dollar makeover. Photo: Wikimedia

Opinion by PETER HEHIR

Residents have until the 18th June 2021 for submissions to the NSW Upper House inquiry into the Western Harbour Tunnel. My take on this ecological disaster, one year from now, borrows from the ‘Teddy Bears Picnic:’

Don’t’ go down to the harbour pools today
Or you’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down in the pools today
You should know it’s most unwise!

For every lid that ever there was will gather there
‘Cause today’s the day the Billy Lids have their picnic

It’s sicknic time for the Billy Lids!
The kiddies are having a lovely time today
But watch them, ‘cause they’re just little lids
And they’ll probably catch their death today! 

See them gaily splash about
They love to swim and play and shout
So unaware that they might die
But at six o’clock Mommies and Daddies
Will sadly take them home to cry
Because they’re now very sick Billy Lids.

The convenor of The Western Harbour Tunnel Action Group, Bob Kelly advises to read the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry and consider making a submission. The Terms of Reference are the specifics of what the Inquiry will be addressing and should therefore guide any submission you may wish to make.

The NSW Parliamentary Research Service produced the ‘Pollution in Sydney Harbour: sewage, toxic chemicals and micro plastics Briefing Paper No 03/2015’ by Daniel Montoya and in 2015 he draws a chilling conclusion. 

“With regard to the pollution currently in the Harbour, it appears that remediation of polluted sediments is technically and financially impractical. It seems that the only way to address the problem is to wait until sediments cover the contaminated layer. The environmental impacts of these pollutants are expected to continue for decades, if not centuries.”

There are thousands of peninsula and Sydney residents who are only too well aware of the many issues that will affect our community during the construction of the Western Harbour Tunnel, particularly the construction at Yurulbin Point and White Bay, the disturbance of sediments at the Berry’s Bay staging site and the unpreventable loss of highly contaminated sediments into the harbour during dredging and transport by water.

The toxic sludge will be barged to White Bay. (EIS. Pages 157-162. Section 17.4.2.) An extract follows;

“Potential impacts on marine water quality could be the transport, treatment and temporary storage of dredged material that is unsuitable for offshore disposal while temporarily stored on barges or at the White Bay construction support site (WHT3) (an application for offshore disposal of suitable dredged material has been submitted to the Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Energy) Marine water quality which states in part:   

“Construction of the immersed tube tunnel would require dredging of the bed of Sydney Harbour which would result in sediments being released into the water column…

Potential marine water quality impacts from these activities would include: 


  • Increases in turbidity resulting in a visible plume and reducing light penetration into the water column 
  • Transfer of sediment deposits onto the bed of the harbour 
  • Mobilisation of contaminants associated with the transportation and dispersion of disturbed sediments 
  • Direct impacts from discharges, runoff, spills and leaks.” 



Bob encourages you to make a submission, no matter how short, as the more submissions made, the more the potential impact. I also urge you to do so.

He believes that The WestConnex Upper House Inquiry did have some positive outcomes

These documents may assist you in guiding your submission in relation to the risks associated with the release of toxic contaminants resulting from the dredging of the harbour, the risks associated with the high concentrations of these highly toxic contaminants in Berrys Bay; as well as the local environmental risks to the marine life, the eco systems and the aquatic users in and on the Harbour. 

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