The Gold Coast is losing what many locals considered a hidden gem– Black Swan Lake (Bundall).
Tucked away a mere 10 minutes from Surfers Paradise, Black Swan Lake was bursting with wildlife, aquatic animals and a range of birds including the iconic black swans. According to one local writer and nature lover, it’s the kind of lake tourists and International visitors may have treasured – if only they knew.
“It was an absolutely stunning lake. I did an article on the Gold Coast a little while back and if I had known about Black Swan Lake, it would have been featured. The place is ideal for relaxing and recharging – the kind of thing us busy humans so desperately need. There is a growing movement with travellers wanting to connect with nature and I believe Black Swan Lake did just that”.
Yes, travelling to experience nature, to relax and unwind is gaining popularity. According to the city’s peak tourism office, Destination Gold Coast, research was conducted into travel behaviour and intentions via the Gold Coast Australian Travel Survey (GCATS) in 2017.
The data showed “that ’natural attractions’ rank in the top 5 activities that visitors choose to come to the Gold Coast for, specifically for those aged 18-29 and over 60 years old. These two groups account for 1.15 million travellers each year”.
However, it seems Black Swan Lake did not make the cut as a ‘natural attraction’ of significance.
For instead of being valued, Black Swan Lake was labelled a “borrow pit” and is suffering a sad fate – being suffocated with dirt to make room for an overflow car park and/or extra space for the Turf Club. According to Gold Coast’s Mayor Tom Tate, covering it up was in the city’s best interest.
“It’s toxic and would have cost ratepayers millions to fix. This isn’t costing ratepayers to fill and fix finally,” Tate said in response to a concerned residents post on his Facebook page in December 2018.
The feud continued over 100 threads across Facebook with residents claiming the lake wasn’t toxic and the Mayor heavily in dispute. In response to another concerned resident who claimed Black Swan Lake isn’t toxic, the Mayor replied, “Oh but it is… not even good for humans to touch.”
Yet the term “borrow pit” and it’s supposed toxicity, couldn’t have been anything further from the truth according to Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordination Committee (B4C) who conducted water testing at the lake from 2014 to 2017. B4C is an established and reputable community group having consulted extensively in QLD working with industry and many councils including Brisbane City and Logan City. B4C concluded that the lake was a healthy and precious asset for the local precinct.
“The lake, and its flora and inhabiting fauna, provides a natural sanctuary for people and wildlife. It provides opportunities for healthy active recreation and a place to reflect on nature for families, residents and visitors alike,” they stated in their September 2017 Water Inflow Quality Report on Black Swan Lake. “People need areas of sanctuary as well as wildlife, and this is borne out in research for green space impact on public health and well being,” B4C noted.
Stefan Hattingh, Operations Manager and Ecologist for B4C further supported this notion by saying “We tested the water in place and sent samples to an Independent registered Lab to test it, a scientific lab, it wasn’t us, it was an Independent one and the findings came back and said there was nothing wrong with the water. The toxicity is non-existent.”
His words were echoed by Ray Ison, an Environmental Consultant having worked in the Industry over 40 years. When probed about the apparent toxicity of the lake and its inability to support life he said “what the Mayor is saying is blatant lies. He has never presented any water quality tests to support his claim the water is “toxic”. It’s those words [of toxicity] that are being repeated by the mayor and some councillors who haven’t bothered to read the subsequent reports done by B4C. It appears they haven’t even read the report the Council commissioned on Black Swan Lake”
B4C also noted the lake is “an important wildlife habitat for the local wildlife that is otherwise unavailable in the surrounding urban matrix”. But more importantly, it was also playing a crucial role in buffering the nearby waterways from the nutrient discharge seeping out of the Turf Club Precinct itself.
“The evidence of direct storm water pollution from the [horse]stables, does not appear to be factored into any attempt by the GCCC or State Government authorities to investigate methods to solve this problem at its point source. The discharge is in contravention of water quality regulations and best practice storm water management practices.” B4C noted in its 2017 Report.
“The lake is providing a biore mediation function to elevated nutrient inflows and is a genuine reason to value the lake and its ability to protect the adjacent Nerang River from potential elevated storm water nutrient inflows or groundwater seepage.”
“The current results highlight the buffer service the lake provides, preventing this outflow that would otherwise enter the Nerang River and subsequently flow out to the ocean.”
B4C are not alone in their concern of pollutants escaping the Turf Club Precinct and how this would be managed should the lake cease to exist. Even the Gold Coast City Councils Independent Environmental Planning Assessment conducted in June 2014 by Planit Consulting Pty Ltd noted similar findings.
“Results concluded that the site’s average pH level over the four sampling days was higher than the Environmental Protection (Water) Policy’s objective to protect environmental value. Although the high alkalinity of the water on site won’t propose any catastrophic impacts on wildlife, it is not preferable for amphibian species,” Planit Consulting highlighted in their report.
“It is concluded that the nearby equine stables and facilities is the main contributor to the poor water quality of the water body as storm water is directly fed into the system without any water quality treatment.”
One must wonder – what now, should the lake disappear for good?
Either way, local conservation groups are passionate about saving the lake, at whatever the costs. According to Tam Hogan, spokesperson for Black Swan Lake Community, the group is “very determined”and“will stop at nothing”.Despite over 70% of the lake already being lost, Ms Hogan insists“it’s time to step up, not step down”and considers“the only way we can stop this is through the legal courts and we are just doing that now.” Ms Hogan believes her duty is to champion the cause, particularly given the abundance of wildlife that call this lake home.
“It’s made me realize how vulnerable these animals are with nobody protecting them – I always thought these birds could just fly off – but it’snot the fact. They need water and a sustainable place to lay eggs and there’s just no-more freshwater available in that area… We’ve got a responsibility, not to harm them… We’ve got a resident swan there for 8 years and his name is Max and we’ve got a purple swamp-hen named Hop-a-long George and he’s got a permanent injury,” she said with a hint of sadness in her voice.
Surprisingly, it goes much deeper for Ms Hogan as she goes on to describe the lake as being akin to a spiritual oasis for the city, unlike any other.
“I turned up at this lake and you switch from stress, rush and hate to beautiful water, noises of the birds chirping, black swans walking up onto the grass and onto the trees. It really is a way to relax for city folk. It is a little hidden gem in the middle of nowhere and I’ve been on the Gold Coast for a long time [44 years] and I know it like the back of my hand and I can say this little lake is special, precious and irreplaceable.”