Replace shade cloth for turtles at Shelly Beach

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As residents of the Sunshine Coast, we are very disappointed and take exception to the removal, on Friday 17 December 2020, of the shade cloth that was part of the replacement fencing and planting at the end of William Street, Shelly Beach, completed by the Sunshine Coast Council in late November.

These works were undertaken, as described in the notice at the time, 'to reduce light spill to turtle nesting areas’. It is well known that artificial lighting deters nesting turtles, light movement contributes to turnarounds without laying, and disorients hatchlings. Shelly Beach is one of the most important nesting beaches for the critically endangered Loggerhead turtle, with around 30% of nests on the Sunshine Coast laid here last year.

Signage was installed by Council on 23 October, approximately 3 weeks prior to the commencement of works, providing the community with an opportunity to contact council on 5475 7272 if they had any queries.

The works were undertaken sensitively regarding visual amenity - the fence is only high enough to shield vehicle head lights (0.9m high, not the standard 1.2m). Vegetation has been planted which will provide excellent visual amenity when grown to fence height.

The reasons for dissatisfaction include but are not limited to:

·        The decision was made in response to a petition to have the shade cloth and wire fencing removed. At the same time, many others voiced their support for the works directly to Council and the local Councillor, including many individuals and at least three community organisations - Caloundra Residents Association, Sunshine Coast Environmental Council and Wildlife Preservation Society;

·        The shade cloth was the essential component for the current season in preventing vehicle headlights from shining onto large areas of the beach – both directly in front of the road and to the expansive area of dune to the south that is primarily grasses and ground covers, and a popular area for turtle nesting;

·        The removal so early in the nesting season means that another season will pass without the simple and practical benefit the shade-cloth demonstrated during its short time in place;

·        It represents yet another delay in delivering the decisive and evidence-based action needed by Council to help mitigate light impacts on turtle nesting; and

·        Loss of the shade-cloth removes protection for the new, small plants from the harsh salt winds – jeopardising their ability to survive or grow quickly to fence height as intended.

We urge Council to seriously reconsider this decision (e.g. using sand coloured shade cloth instead of black would be an improvement) and we look forward to the opportunity to express our views and identify additional practical steps that are long overdue to help the survival of this endangered species.