BREAKWATER WALLS SPELL TROUBLE FOR DUGONG HABITAT

 

ALLIANCE TO SAVE HINCHINBROOK INC MEDIA RELEASE
for release FRIDAY 03 June 2005

The Alliance to Save Hinchinbrook Inc (ASH) is dismayed that the Queensland Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has given approval to Cardwell Shire Council to construct two long "training" walls at Oyster Point across part of the World Heritage listed Hinchinbrook Channel.

If built, the proposed walls would extend potentially hundreds of metres into the Channel, towards Hinchinbrook Island. There are indications in the development site map for the proposed length of the walls to be increased, once approved.

Oyster Point is where the dredged access channel for "Port Hinchinbrook" marina, Stage I residential/industrial canal estate and the proposed Stage II residential canal estate enters the Hinchinbrook Channel.

The walls would be an ugly intrusion into the dramatically scenic area of Hinchinbrook Island and Channel, renowned internationally for its beauty, grandeur, and rich wildife.

The choice of Oyster Point for the "Port Hinchinbrook" canal/marina system flew in the face of State Harbours and Marine Department advices of 1977 and 1980.

The Cardwell Shire Council and the developer are now faced with the ongoing costs of site deficits against which they were twice warned 25 years ago.

Both of the Harbours and Marine Reports cited above concluded that Oyster Point was unsuitable as a boat harbour simply because of deficits inherent its location: being in a catchment, with flooding and siltation risks, and lacking naturally deep water, it would require costly dredging and spoil disposal.

Despite the assurances of the Queensland EPA that training walls are a good idea, ASH is not convinced that there would be no adverse consequences contingent on blocking off part of the Hinchinbrook Channel in this way.

Margaret Moorhouse (spokesperson for ASH) said "Unless there is input from the EPA beyond what is in the Environment Minister's recent Media Release, it seems that the EPA has looked at the breakwater walls purely as an exercise in engineering, the only outcome considered being a reduction in rate of dredge spoil accumulation and its attendant costs."

"It is astonishing that the impact on the World Heritage integrity and values of the Hinchinbrook Channel and Island have not even been mentioned in the recent Queensland Environment Minister's Media release. Were they not considered by the EPA?" asked Ms Moorhouse "Nor was it mentioned that the impacts of the proposal have yet to be considered by the Commonwealth Government, under the Environment Protection, Biodiversity and Conservation (EPBC) Act".

"This part of the Hinchinbrook waterways, from many kilometres south of Oyster Point on the mainland to the far side of Missionary Bay on Hinchinbrook Island, forms the heartland of the Hinchinbrook dugong habitat. Here the dugongs have historically found relative safety due to the lack of boating traffic. Now however the construction of boating facilities has attracted hundreds more power vessels to enter the Hinchinbroook Channel through the dredged access channel to the Port Hinchinbrook facilities" Ms Moorhouse said.

"To invite even more power boats into the area by building even more boating infrastructure - such as training walls and canal moorings - would be to invite disaster to this species, which is literally on the brink of extinction world wide" said Ms Moorhouse.

"Here in the Hinchinbrook habitat we have just one real chance of helping this North Queensland dugong population survive to be a world wonder. That chance is now: do not increase the risks of boat strike and seagrass damage by building more boat-attracting infrastructure in this area."

CONTACT Margaret Moorhouse mobile 0427 724 052

NOTES According to an Infrastructure Agreement between Cardwell Shire Council and Keith Williams (as sole director of Cardwell Properties Pty Ltd), the Commonwealth Government did not give consent to construction of breakwater walls proposed to be built as part of the original "Port Hinchinbrook" Application. This is the stated reason for the Council, not the original developer, being the present Applicant for the training walls proposal.

The walls are desired by the developer and the Council because they are claimed to reduce the amount of silt that will accumulate in the access channel, dredging being a costly and ongoing expense. The walls are claimed only to slow down the rate of silting, not prevent it from happening. Regardless of whether or not the walls are built, silt and dredged spoil will still accumulate and be costly to remove. Marine soils, once exposed to air, can generate sulphuric acid, just as coastal acid sulphate soils may do.

Other Queensland boat harbours are facing similar environmental and economic costs associated with dredging, even those with greater natural depth. Now that the adverse environmental impacts of dredge spoil are better understood, and economic costs incurred to dispose of it are higher, some other marinas have paused their usual dredging regime. Boat operators are once again learning to use time and tide when entering and exiting shallow boat harbours.

(end media release) -

Also see Qld Environment Minister's Media Release relating to breakwater approvals.

Subscribe to our email list to receive regular updates. Click here to send us an email or email brisbane@hinchinbrook.info.