Hay, what's that: A hay bale has its final resting place on Sandy Beach.
Hay, what's that: A hay bale has its final resting place on Sandy Beach. Leigh Jensen

Debris dumps into ocean at Coffs

HUGE logs, trees, sugar cane and even hay bales – they’re all heading our way as the flooded Clarence River continues to spew into the sea.

Coffs Coast beaches have become a dumping ground for masses of debris flowing south, prompting warnings for local boat and tour operators to steer clear of danger.

The big swells have helped to bring the rubbish ashore and also provided a deterrent to bathers thinking of venturing out too far.

Marine Rescue crews had their hands full at Coffs Harbour Marina yesterday where they worked to clear large logs from the busy waterway, while Sawtell Beach was clogged with big lengths of timber as well.

Sergeant Don Stewart from Coffs Harbour water police said the ocean was teeming with debris and had washed ashore ‘half-a-tree’ on Jetty Beach near their headquarters.

“If it had been hit by a boat it would have done a fair bit of damage,” Sgt Stewart said.

“My colleagues were patrolling around South Solitary Island and they said there was rubbish everywhere. They even saw a tree which was about 40 foot long.

“Everybody who has been out to sea is reporting plenty of debris out there.”

Sgt Stewart said navigation warnings would remain for local boating.

“The majority of it is coming out of the Clarence. Anything out of Southport or Brisbane we probably won’t see for two weeks.”

Coffs Harbour Marine Rescue unit commander Graeme King said local anglers had reported plenty of debris between Muttonbird Island and South Solitary Island.

“As boating traffic is logging on we are warning them to be careful of the debris. It’s part and parcel of what happens after a flood,” Mr King said.

Coffs Harbour City Council’s senior lifeguard, Sonny Tisdell, said wave heights of three metres yesterday morning meant bathers were being warned not to go beyond waist-deep water.

“Generally bathers are intimidated by the big surf but what we’ve got to worry about is the sweep and keeping people out of channels that will take them out to sea,” Mr Tisdell said.

“The swell is dropping and I don’t think it will last but the intensity of the surf will still be there.”

Mr Tisdell said submerged debris was another worry for bathers.

“When the tide is better we’ll have to get the beaches cleaned up,” he said.

He also reported the water quality was improving after the recent deluge.

Coffs Harbour City Council crews were yesterday picking up debris in the harbour and marina and their attention turned to local beaches where they will clean up foreign material.

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