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Fact Sheet: Jack Barnes Boardwalk Precinct

This fact sheet refers specifically to the “Jack Barnes Mangrove Boardwalk Precinct” on Airport Avenue in the Cairns Airport lands, Cairns. The fact sheet has been produced in the context of providing information on the importance of the boardwalk amidst development plans of Cairns Airport Pty Ltd which may see the boardwalk and associated mangroves removed.
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Mangrove flower, leaves and propagules fallen on the boardwalk


Q. What is important about the Jack Barnes boardwalk precinct?

A. Many things

  • Accessibility: The only boardwalk in mangroves in Cairns City
  • Ecology: Includes small, locally rare example of natural saltmarsh in a mangrove wetland
  • Biodiversity: A particularly diverse area of mangroves – many species – from saltmarsh margins to tall mangrove forest.
  • Education: The species and ecological diversity make this an outstanding venue for environmental education.
  • Birdwatching: A highly convenient and accessible place to observe bird species typical of mangrove forests.
  • Fish habitat: In common with all mangrove wetlands, important as fish nursery
  • Tourism: A definite tourism asset, especially the tall mangrove forest.


Q. Previous recognition of conservation values?
A. Previously recognized as being of conservation value including:

  • National Estate Listing – part of “Cairns Tidal Wetlands” registered in 1981, modified in 2000 (subsequently delisted in 2003 as part of Australia wide legislation)
  • Wetland of National Significance – as part of “Port of Cairns and Trinity Inlet – QLD157” (current)
  • Construction of the Jack Barnes boardwalk on public land as recognition of educational value of the mangrove wetlands.
  • Boardwalks regularly visited by ornithologists for bird watching.


Q. Previous recognition of Indigenous cultural values?


  • Native Title: Currently under Native Title interest from the respective Traditional Owner groups of the Cairns region;
  • Cultural Heritage: Currently under Cultural Heritage interest from the respective Traditional Owner groups of the Cairns region including places of cultural, spiritual and religious significance to Indigenous Traditional Owners;
  • Culturally Significant Biodiversity: The ecological diversity and wildlife species of the Cairns Airport and Ellie Point region hold significant cultural, spiritual and religious values to the Indigenous Traditional Owners;
  • Culturally Significant Livelihoods: The Cairns airport and mangroves still remain as a significant social-cultural site for Indigenous Traditional Owners supporting the continuation and connection of their traditional livelihoods.


Q. Who owns the land?

A. Private

  • Was public land but in 2008, was transferred as part of the Queensland Government privatisation of the Cairns Airport. The Jack Barnes Boardwalk and precinct are now the property of Cairns Airport Ltd., a non-listed company.


Q. What is the future of the land?

A. Development

  • As a part of the privately owned Cairns Airport, use of the land is decided by the Airport owners Land Use Plan, finalised in 2012. In a word, development requiring reclamation of the mangrove wetlands.
  • The Jack Barnes Boardwalk precinct is zoned “Aviation enterprise precinct” – planned to include “diversified aeronautical activity including ancillary services, freight, logistics, engineering, maintenance, aeronautical and aerospace training facilities, helicopter operations, government and regulatory agency operations and administration”. Many of these developments would be transferred from Aeroglen to make space for a “Commercial enterprise zone” including shops.
  • Mangrove wetlands to the east are zoned “Movement expansion precinct” (second runway)
  • A small area to the south of these zones is zoned “Green Zone”.

In summary:

  • Current zoning means reclamation of the mangrove wetlands and development of the site for airport and commercial use.


Future Options?

  • All mangroves in the Cairns Airport lands are important for conservation, especially as fish habitat, protection from erosion and tidal surge.
  • The mangrove wetlands in the vicinity of the Jack Barnes Boardwalk precinct have additional value for environmental, Indigenous ecological-social-cultural, educational and tourism purposes. The boardwalks are a valuable community asset (and are presently proposed for demolition for relocation of heliport infrastructure.)
  • If the Cairns Airport Ltd. is prepared to recognise the environmental, Indigenous, educational and tourism value of the precinct as well as the prior community ownership, the Airport Land Use Plan could be amended to exclude this area, even return it to community ownership with an appropriate level of protection and management.

Back to:

Mangroves & Wetlands

Airport Development 

Peter Hitchcock AM