The Cairns and Far North Environment Centre, CAREFISH (CAirns REcreational Fishing Industry Stake Holders) and local commercial fishers are concerned over the recent approval of the Cairns Airport Land Use Plan by the State government.
The Land Use Plan contains a ‘Movement Expansion Precinct’ (or new second parallel runway) and a ‘Mixed Aviation Zone’ which if built, would result in the loss of over 100 ha of vegetation, much of it mangroves and salt marsh communities. This loss has unacceptable negative consequences, including:
- a reduction in fish stocks available for local recreational and commercial fisheries;
- loss of habitat for threatened flora species;
- loss of protection of the coastal zone (and costly airport infrastructure) from storm wave action; and
- loss of habitat for migratory and marine bird species.
Paul Auburn, CAREFISH:
“CAREFISH hold grave concern over the removal of any mangrove area particularly such a large area. These mangroves are not only extremely important to the Barron River estuary, nursery to many species, but also as a filter for water flows from the massive tablelands agricultural catchment including several sewerage treatment plants. This is the last stop for water heading to the Great Barrier Reef.”
“The Cairns commercial fishing sector have also reaffirmed their concerns over the ongoing degradation of coastal habitat, breeding area and protection for important restaurant and seafood outlet species, and say the Barron River area can do with all the help it can get. Removing large areas of mangroves is clearly not in the best interest of those stocks.”
Anna McGuire, Coordinator of the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre:
“Not only is this mangrove vegetation vital habitat for rare plant species, it is also an important breeding ground for many local fish, crab and prawn species. If you remove this critical breeding ground of fish species like the mangrove jack, fish stocks in the area are predicted to decline dramatically.”
“Mangroves provide valuable nursery areas for juvenile fish and crustaceans and are an important source of nutrients for the adjacent marine ecosystem. These mangroves are vital to the health and sustainability of Queensland’s northern fisheries. They are the breeding grounds that replenish commercial fish and prawn stocks. Biologists estimate that 75% of the commercially caught fish and prawns in Queensland spend at least some part of their life cycle living in the mangroves.”
“In addition, turtles, particularly young ones, use these areas for shelter and food. The mudflats are also rich in burrowing invertebrates and are important feeding areas for significant and internationally protected migratory wading birds.”
“Mangroves also help to protect the coastline from serious erosion during tropical cyclones and they also act as a natural filter to improve the quality of the water that reaches the reef.”
“There will be limited or no economic benefit to the community from these plans to clear the ‘movement expansion precinct, move the general aviation area and create a commercial precinct. In fact, the current Plan is expected to instead cause adverse competition and a loss of skilled jobs in the region. Airport capacity can instead be increased much more cost effectively via options such as extending the taxiway, flying in planes with greater seating capacity and better timetabling in off-peak hours.”
The Cairns Regional Council has raised concerns about the Movement Expansion Area and the associated vegetation clearing, noise impact on residential communities and impact on coastal processes. In addition the Far North Queensland Regional Plan also identified a large part of this area as a ‘Conservation Corridor’.