Magnetic Times - Hinchinbrook decision - November 8 2006


 November 8th 2006
Hinchinbrook decision

The breakwalls will extend from the marina mouth Magnetic Island with its Nelly Bay Harbour and Cardwell with its Port Hinchinbrook development share a history of residents and conservation groups becoming actively involved in protests over marina development. At Nelly Bay the break walls and quarrying of Bright Point preceded the marina’s construction while at Port Hinchinbrook approval was given last month by the federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell to allow two breakwaters to be constructed. Impacts of the environment are however common to both but at Port Hinchinbrook dugong in particular are seen by conservationists as the big losers.

Alliance to Save Hinchinbrook (ASH), spokesperson, Margaret Moorehouse told magnetictimes.com, “The only concession to the endangered wildlife of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (for which the Hinchinbrook Passage is their natural refuge) is a requirement to erect signage explaining to users the values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and actions they can take to minimise their impact on these values.”

ASH referred to James Cook University’s Dean of Postgraduate Studies and Professor of Environmental Science, Professor Helene Marsh, who stated that scientific studies had shown that the dugong populations along the Queensland coast south of Cooktown had declined "drastically" - making the point that increasing boating traffic would eventually push dugongs out of their habitat.

Professor Marsh wrote to the Cairns Bulletin, “Precautionary management is particularly important in dugong habitats such as the Hinchinbrook region and in my opinion should address all anthropogenic impacts including vessel strike and the potential for vessel traffic to alienate dugongs from key habitats."

Ms Moorhouse said "The Minister's decision is not merely disappointing, it is insulting to the special world heritage listed species that have long been shown to depend on this precise area for their sheer survival, and to the Australian people.

"In referring to the wildlife of the area the Minister clearly recognised that the Commonwealth has a duty to them. For the Minister to think that the Australian people would believe that mere signage is a substitute for Commonwealth protection goes beyond lipservice –– it just seems unbelievably cynical."

When asked how the Minister envisaged that signage would be sufficient in protecting Dugongs given their rapidly diminishing numbers a department spokesperson told magnetictimes.com, “Cardwell Shire Council did not apply to extend the size of the marina at Port Hinchinbrook, and the number of vessels able to be berthed within the marina will not changed with this decision.

“The speed of vessels in Queensland waterways, including the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, is regulated under Queensland legislation. Because of this, the approval does not contain a condition to regulate vessel speed.

“The signage is designed to inform the masters of visiting vessels about the sensitive nature of the marine environment in the Hinchinbrook Channel and how they can minimise their impact on it. This will include guidance about appropriate vessel speeds in key habitat areas for dugongs and green turtles.”

In 1995 the Commonwealth Department of Environment gave this advice to, the then, Commonwealth Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill:

"Whilst possibly reducing the number of boat strikes, speed controls cannot be expected to reduce other vessel related threats to dugong, such as physical disturbance and noise, which may displace them from feeding grounds. If a full array of water sports, such as jet-skis, para-sailing and water skiing was to be present, disturbance levels would be raised. Any consent would need to ensure strict controls on the location and conduct of such activities and be managed through Queensland legislation ..."

Ms Moorhouse said: "Although Senator Hill gave consent for mangrove clearing and Port Hinchinbrook Stage I (as it is now known), at least he regarded the dugongs highly enough that he did not grant consent for breakwater walls to be built in the Hinchinbrook Passage at Oyster Point."

"Senator Campbell, on the other hand, appears to have joined the Queensland Government in abandoning the Hinchinbrook dugongs to gradual extinction."

Story: George Hirst
Photo by Steven Nowakowski giving a Hinchinbrook Channel district perspective of the development site which extends south to the Seafarm Spoil ponds. The breakwalls will extend from the front of the marina mouth

Comments left on the Magnetic Times website : see below

Writer Comments
Jenny Stirling An appalling decision and one that undermines Australia's credibility when it comes to protecting bio-diversity and the habitat of engangered species.

How can we in good conscience berate the Japanese about their policy of killing whales when we fail to protect these gentle and unique creatures?

Campbells message is that we will have to make extra efforts ourselves to educate boat users and people who spend time on the water about the dangers to the dugong and what we can do to protect them. In other words, row, row, row your boat.
chasmac I hadn't noticed this before but if you mentally sketch in the breakwaters on the aerial photo (above) the scene starts to resemble those crude diagrams of the (viagra affected) male anatomy that so tastefully adorn public toilet walls.
From past experience I wouldn't expect much higher standards from Cardwell Shire Council or, for that matter, Keith Williams, but I would have thought the federal minister could do better than allow , even approve of, large scale graffiti penetrating a World Heritage Area.
Is it the case that....he doesn't know much about the coastal environment, endangered species, exceptional natural beauty, outstanding universal values or anything at all really, but he knows what he likes?
Milly Osborne Dugongs are endangered but this seems to be of little concern to our Environment minister, whose job it is to make sure these unique animals actually survive human activities. They are still allowed to be hunted by indigenous groups. Pushng them further from their habitat by the onslaught of excess human activities may put the "nail in the coffin" of these great sea mammals. We need government ministers with drive and compassion for wildlife, not just diplomats who give preference for human developments and profits.
Ian McCallan The rock walls themselves probably cause very little change and I would have thought they would pose an insignificant problem. They will however have a very positive effect on the aqmount of diesel fuel used for dredging, particularly over the long term and this will represent a considerable environmental plus.
The effect on the dugong population of the increased boat traffic caused by any improvement in access may need consideration. Boat strike has not so far been a problem, but does pose a major problem in the USA with manatees. The voluntary speed limited areas are generally ignored by power boats so this may have to be looked at. I would have thought fitting of propellor guards should be mandatory for all new boats, not just for Dugongs but for general safety for any living thing that might come into contact with propellors including people. Might save some props and shafts from damage from harder objects too.
Kim Naiarlock GREAT decision. Fantastic for us jetskiers, we can now get real close to the dugongs and see them swimming alone with all of the other wild animals out there. Will be a lot easier to fill up with petrol. Go for it Keith, you great big dog lover!!!


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