The screening of the Four Corners episode ‘Battle for the Reef’ on Monday the 18th of August held many revelations including:

  • The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) appointed a career bureaucrat to approve dumping of dredge spoil in World Heritage waters after it was rejected by in-house scientists.
  • Long-term monitoring of dredging impacts so far has been woefully inadequate. Monitoring tends to focus on the short-term impacts at each inshore dredging site, rather than the longer-term effects of dumping sediment on areas further away.
  • Commonwealth Environment Minster Greg Hunt stated that he has ‘drawn a line in the sand’ suggesting there would be no new dumping in reef waters.
  • Australia’s leading coral reef scientists called for a ban on the dumping of dredge spoil in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef including:
  1. Xanthe_Rivett-FortheReef-9553_300Professor Terry Hughes – called for a complete ban on dumping of dredge spoil in all waters of the reef. He said there is now mounting evidence that fine particles from sediment can travel across the reef, up to 100km or more.
  2. Dr Charlie Veron – said GBRMPA’s decision to allow the dumping of 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil had to be political, rather than being supported by science.
  3. Jon Brodie – said the proposed dredging and dumping at Abbot Point was the quickest, dirtiest and cheapest option.
  4. Jon Day – said we should not be dumping dredge spoil in the marine park.

Meanwhile a proposal to use toxic, acid sulphate contaminated dredge spoil from the proposed Cairns dredging project to turn the East Trinity Environmental Reserve and Indigenous Protected Area into a massive soil remediation project for development, has been rejected by CAFNEC and other environmentalists as inappropriate, environmentally damaging and prohibitively costly.

Cairns and Far North Environment Centre (CAFNEC) Marine Programs Coordinator Josh Coates has summarised both information presented in the Four Corners episode, and recent media suggesting that Cairns Port dredge spoil could be used to turn East Trinity into a new housing development, by saying:

“There are 3 main points to consider here:

  • The clear scientific consensus is that marine dumping of dredge spoil is environmentally unacceptable.
  • There is no genuine need to enlarge the Cairns Port shipping channel, as an alternative for large cruise ships is already in operation.
  • The environmental risks, lack of suitable sites and massive taxpayer-funded cost of treating the acid sulphate contaminated dredge spoil on land, make mass onshore dumping too risky and unviable.

Given these clear and known factors, the only sensible option is to abandon plans for unnecessary new dredging and instead focus on supporting Cairns and Far North businesses in ways that do not, risk the environment, and the industries and people that rely on a healthy environment.”

In regard to East Trinity spoil dumping CAFNEC Marine Programs Coordinator Josh Coates said:

“After over 40 years of problems with acid sulphate soils at the East Trinity site and many years of remediation work, it is hard to believe anyone is seriously considering dumping dredge spoil on the East Trinity Environmental Reserve.”

“We have been through all of this before; this is a poor attempt to address a problem that need not exist, because there is no need for new dredging. We already deal with large cruise ship visits to Cairns by transferring passengers by tender, as is the practice for many other ports around the world.”

Mr Coates went on to say:

“We are organising a Community Forum on Cairns Port dredging to provide quality information on the proposal in the lead up to the release of the Environmental Impact Statement, now expected in October.”

“This is a chance for the community to learn more about the proposal to dredge around 7 million tonnes of mud and acid sulphate soil to expand Cairns Port. This proposal is larger than the controversial Abbot Point dredging and places at risk the Great Barrier Reef environment and animals, including seagrass, dugongs, turtles and fish.  The tourism and fisheries industries that rely heavily on health of the reef are also at risk.”

SCREEN USE POSTER1000loEvent details:

CAFNEC will be holding a Community Forum on Cairns Port Dredging to provide information on the proposal and environmental concerns:

When: 24th September 2014, 6:30 pm start

Where: Cairns Choral Society hall, 31-33 Greenslopes Street, North Cairns.

What: Presentations and panel discussion from tourism and local industry representatives, leading scientists and environmental experts.

Presentations, Q&A, light refreshments provided, free entry.


Media contact: Josh Coates, Marine Programs Coordinator, (07) 4032 1586, marine [at]


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