Great Barrier Reef at risk from port expansion

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) warned that the Queensland government’s September 29 proposal to significantly expand the Port of Townsville, will further damage the ailing Great Barrier Reef.

State development minister Anthony Lynham said the $1.64 billion port expansion had been approved by the Coordinator-General. This will allow for the dredging of 11.48 million cubic metres of sediment to widen and deepen the Sea and Platypus Channels to create an expanded harbour basin to accommodate larger ships. This will damage the Reef.

The government also proposes to establish a 152 hectare reclamation area, construct 4 kilometres of rock revetments, a new 700-metre western breakwater and six new shipping berths.

AMCS Reef Campaigner Tony Fontes said: “Our Great Barrier Reef has just suffered devastating back-to-back bleaching events which caused half of all our Reef’s shallow water corals to die.

“As well, the latest Reef report card rates water quality in the Great Barrier Reef as a D, which is very poor. Dredging will only add to this problem. The poor water quality will make it more difficult for the Reef to recover.

“This is not a one-off dredge event. Annual maintenance dredging (currently averaging 400,000 cubic metres a year) would increase by 14–17%.

“Maintenance dredge spoil is comprised predominantly of fine silts and clays, the fraction of sediment most detrimental to Reef ecosystems. This maintenance dredge spoil would be dumped in the water about 4 kilometres east of the northern tip of Magnetic Island.”

AMCS said there is not a strong case to expand the port. The port has always been underutilised — last year, Queensland Nickel, the port’s largest user, closed down.

“We need to consider first and foremost the health of the Great Barrier Reef, a $56 billion asset and the 64,000 jobs that it supports” Fontes said.

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