Road to destroy coastal wetlands

Issue 

Road to destroy coastal wetlands

By Peter McCallum

MACKAY — The Queensland government seems set to push ahead with a major new road in Mackay that will destroy 12.3 hectares of coastal wetlands, despite Environment Protection Agency (EPA) opposition. The wetland is part of a fish habitat reserve, and legislation revoking that status will have to be passed by state parliament before the road can go ahead.

The east-west connector road is designed to provide an alternative route for B-double trucks that the Department of Transport has recently licensed to travel through the North Mackay shopping centre.

The wetlands that will be destroyed in the process appear to be home to the rare false water rat, which was recently discovered nearby. The road is also likely to cost jobs as customers bypass the shopping centre.

An EPA letter obtained by the Mackay Conservation Group states that the project should not go ahead because it contravenes the state government's recently launched coastal wetlands policy. The policy states that there must be "significant, compensating social benefit" if any coastal wetlands are to be destroyed.

The EPA says the Department of Main Roads has "neglected past advice", "considerably undervalued" the mangroves it plans to destroy and failed to properly consider less environmentally damaging alternatives.

Mackay Conservation Group president Dr Michael Williams said, "The DMR tried to portray us and other opponents of the road as an insignificant minority. This letter shows that we have legitimate concerns. We have called on the premier to put a stop to this road pending a thorough investigation of the alternatives."