Cairns Airport Development

The Cairns Airport Pty Ltd (CAPL) are planning to upgrade and redevelop the airport in coming years. As a part of this development the Jack Barnes Memorial Boardwalk and surrounding mangrove forest may be in the firing line.



2008 – 2015

The intention for the airport redevelopment has been known of since 2012 when CAPL released their revised land use plan. In early 2015, it came to our attention that the Jack Barnes Memorial Boardwalk (located on CAPL land after the sale of the airport in 2008) may be under direct threat as a site for the relocation of the heliport and associated infrastructure. The specific area under consideration was the patch of saltmarsh located at the beginning of the southern arm of the boardwalk.  In 2015, an initial open letter was sent to CAPL from then Cafnec Director Josh Coates and several concerned parties outlined that the area earmarked for the heliport was not previously cleared land, but an important, naturally occurring and rare plant community of saltmarsh (read the letter here). A subsequent meeting was held and it was communicated by CAPL that there was no immediate plans to develop the area.


Fast forward 2016 and the issue of the site for the heliport has been raised again, bought mainly to our attention by an article published in the Cairns Post 27th of April 2016 referencing 57 hectares of development planned for the near future. A second open letter to CAPL was sent asking where this 57 hectares will be. This letter was printed in the May edition of Ecotone and followed on from a proposal put together by Peter Hitchcock, outlined in the March issue of Ecotone, for a ‘Jack Barnes Wetlands Reserve’ that would see the boardwalk and surrounding mangrove forest protected under State legislation as a permanent reserve (to be managed locally), thus excluding the area from development.

Updating from the open letter written to CAPL in May, we can report that a delegation of CAFNEC staff, members and concerned parties have now had two meetings with CAPL staff regarding the future of the Jack Barnes Memorial Boardwalk and surrounding mangrove forest, with a third scheduled for the near future.

Currently, no decision has been made regarding the destiny of the boardwalk, although we can confirm that the boardwalk and surrounding mangrove forest on the seaward side of Airport Avenue is one of multiple sites being considered for the relocation of the heliport as a part of CAPL’s redevelopment plan.

However, the 57 hectares of airport development for movement of General Aviation referenced in a Cairns Post article on the 27th of April 2016 will be on the landward side of Airport Avenue, not the seaward side where Jack Barnes Memorial Boardwalk is located. As such, under current plans, the only infrastructure potentially occurring on the seaward side of Airport Avenue is that of a heliport.

We are deeply disturbed at the prospect of mangroves of such diversity, age and size being destroyed, not to mention the infrastructure of the boardwalk itself, which has provided accessibility into such a unique area for education and leisure for close to three decades (Click here for a fact sheet on the boardwalk). These mangroves have significant value for environmental, Indigenous ecological-social-cultural, educational and tourism purposes and their presence into the future must be ensured because of this. At this stage, we are continuing meetings with CAPL and will keep our members updated as details come to light.

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Mangroves & Wetlands