There is a proposal to build a marina, in beautiful Boat Bay at Mission Beach. It will irrevocable change this environment, as excavation of 14 hectares of mangroves is required, to build an ‘all-states-of-the-tide’ boating facility.

Boat Bay is located on the northern side of the headland of Clump Point, at the northern end of the 12km stretch of beach at Mission Beach. There are an impressive number of species using the lagoon habitat; dugong; sea turtles (including the endangered Loggerhead and Olive Ridley Turtles), humpback whales, water birds and numerous fish species. The Wet Tropics rainforests and Great Barrier Reef meet here with similar ‘undeveloped’ vistas to the Daintree.

In the 1970s, a boat harbour reserve was declared over part of Boat Bay, for possible public infrastructure and use. This reserve of the years, has fuelled a plethora of schemes from island suburbs and rock-walled harbours and now the marina. The local council had repeatedly failed, following cyclone damage, to restore lost utility such as low level landings to the Clump Point jetty. The continued dysfunctional state of the jetty and resulting conflict between recreational and commercial users has also been used to push local opinion towards a marina.

Under the Wet Tropics Coast Regional Coastal Plan (now repealed), Boat Bay had been protected as a designated ‘Area of State Significance’, When the Queensland Coastal Plan was redrafted, ‘Areas of State Significance’ were deleted. This year as the Coastal Plan was being finalised, Boat Bay although not declared as a marine development area has received special mention stating the Clump Point Boat Harbour Reserve enables small scale marine infrastructure, with no restrictions on re-establishing infrastructure that has been damaged or destroyed.

However the marina proposal goes far beyond this; calling for excavation to a depth of at least 3 meters below the low tide mark, over 14 hectares of inter-tidal mudflats. The Mission Beach Harbour Pty Ltd proposal calls for the formation of a 4 hectare island and a deep water marina basin. The facility will have over 170 marina berths, a 2 Storey dry boat storage shed, swimming pool, tennis courts, clubhouse and car parking. The excavation of mudflats will cause irrevocable damage to sea grass meadows found beyond the high tide mark.

Current Developments
The Coast Plan also called for a further study by relevant State government departments and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 2011 -12, to assess the nature and scale of marine infrastructure needs along the Cassowary Coast. This planning process is underway and at a recent meeting, between the Transport Department and commercial boat owners, it was unanimously accepted that although the design and rebuild alone of the present jetty would not cater for the needs of the commercial boat operators, a “marina” is not being seen as an alternative.

On 6th July the Treasury announced the awarding of a $5.5 million scoping study to establish a safe anchorage at Mission Beach; this caused a flurry in local media. With Bob Katter, making appearances in communities along the Cassowary Coast claiming the money would go towards a safe all-weather facility, which was reported in the Cairns Post. However, Bill Shannon, Mayor of the Cassowary Coast Council, stated in an article published in the Innisfail Advocate on 14th July that a letter sent from Federal Minister for Regional Australia Simon Crean to State Development Minister Jeff Seeney, confirming that the funds were intended for a scoping study only.

Practical and economic alternatives for a more complex jetty design are to be examined, to provide more functionality for the boats currently servicing the tourist industry at Mission Beach, including some means of breaking the swell but without major works or impacts on the hydrology.

By Margaret Moorhouse, Alliance to Save Hinchinbrook