Community forum on Cairns dredging a resounding success

A great turn out, expert speakers, dozens of committed volunteers and a hot topic – all the ingredients for a highly successful event.

CAFNEC would like to thank the speakers and panellists on the night who spoke passionately, clearly and informatively to a full house on a range of topics related to the proposed port expansion dredging in Cairns.

Panellists address questions at the community forum on Cairns port dredging

Panellists address questions at the community forum on Cairns port dredging Photo: (c) Xanthe Rivett

Community members appreciated the way that leading scientists Richard Bush and Jon Brodie explained complex concepts such as acid sulphate soils in terms that everyone could understand. The scientists helped everyone to understand the very real problems associated with dredging and dumping in both onshore and offshore locations. For many people it was their first chance to really understand the issue and just how reactive and dangerous dredge spoil can be, with Professor Bush pointing out:

“Dredge spoil should not be considered a benign material; it can react very quickly to become an acidic source of contamination.”

“The scale of land based dredge disposal currently being considered for port developments is unprecedented in Australia.”

“To realise the opportunities for re-use of dredge spoil for land development and achieve good outcomes for the environment is at the very limits, if not beyond, our current technical expertise.” 

A full house enjoyed talks from a range of scientists, tourism professionals and environmental experts. Photo: (c) Xanthe Rivett

A full house enjoyed talks from a range of scientists, tourism professionals and environmental experts. Photo: (c) Xanthe Rivett

Hearing from the tourism industry on this issue is crucial and Col McKenzie (AMPTO) and Mark Frankel (Blue Dive) eloquently summarised the concerns of the industry. The take home message was that to move forward and support our tourism industry we must ensure that development does not damage our environment. A healthy reef is crucial to the future of Cairns and the far north and we need better knowledge and management of dredging before rushing into a taxpayer funded dredging program that is likely to do more harm than good.

Environmental spokespeople Felicity Wishart (AMCS / Fight for the Reef), Josh Coates (CAFNEC) and Denis Walls (Local resident) pointed out to an engaged audience many of the problems associated with the proposal for new ‘capital’ dredging of over 4.4 million cubic meters of spoil in Trinity Bay. Impacts on the Great Barrier Reef, inshore seagrass and other fish nursery area impacts and the problems associated with both onshore and offshore dumping of the huge volume of spoil proposed featured highly.

Panel discussion was ably facillitated by Mike Friganiotis of Relationships Australia and saw some excellent and probing questions from the floor addressed. Col and Mark discussed the impact on visibility on reef areas as far away as the reefs off Port Douglas during maintenance dredging operations in Cairns port. Speakers discussed the economic viability and the massive cost to taxpayers of the proposed works. Alternatives such as the existing transfer of passengers from large cruise ships to shore via tender were backed by most speakers, with Mark making the point that Port Douglas enjoys the custom of cruise ship passengers without the need for shore docking.

CAFNEC marine programs coordinator Josh

CAFNEC marine programs coordinator and marine biologist Josh Coates addresses the forum. Photo: (c) Xanthe Rivett

CAFNEC would like to thank the businesses that supported the event, the CAFNEC marine response team who did an amazing job on the night and the experts who gave their time to inform a community eager to get independent information on the proposal.

To get involved and learn more about the issue please sign the petition, join our mailing list and consider supporting CAFNEC by becoming a member (see sidebar on website).

More photos and videos to be published in due course – stay tuned.



Permanent link to this article: https://cafnec.org.au/2014/09/25/community-forum-cairns-dredging-resounding-success/