Minister Not Warned about Risks of Fitzroy Delta Port (Australia)
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke admits he was never warned about the ‘extreme’ risks posed by a proposed coal port in the Fitzroy Delta, near the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance (KAFDA), a community group based in Central Queensland opposing port development in the Fitzroy Delta, have questioned why the Environment Minister was not informed by his department of these risks.
Documents recently obtained under Freedom of Information show that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority wrote to the Minister’s department in 2011 regarding the proposed Fitzroy Terminal Project, owned by the Mitchell Group.
The Authority clearly outlined that the project had the potential “to have unacceptable and high risk impacts” on the Fitzroy Delta.
The Fitzroy Delta, an iconic natural wonder at the head of Keppel Bay, serves as an irreplaceable home for various endangered birds, turtles and the Australian Snubfin Dolphin.
Internationally renowned marine biologist Professor Callum Roberts, recently visited the delta and stated “it is as significant, extraordinary and precious as the Great Barrier Reef itself.”
Despite clear warnings from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Minister’s department did not seek his advice and allowed the port developers, The Mitchell Group, to continue with the costly approval process.
The Fitzroy Terminal Project is proposed for the untouched shoreline opposite the minor loading facility of Port Alma. This location has no existing infrastructure and port development would require major habitat destruction not withstanding the effects of regular king tides and storm activity.
The Authority also outlined that the incessant light and noise disturbance from coal loading activity and barge traffic would disturb sensitive animal species living in the unique conditions provided by the Fitzroy Delta, the largest estuarine system feeding the Great Barrier Reef.
“The coal will be barged out of the delta day and night, into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park,” said KAFDA spokesperson Ginny Gerlach, “this constant traffic poses a risk to federally protected areas such as Peak Island, one of the three largest flatback turtle rookeries in the world.”
“The proposed methodology for transhipping the coal off the barges will require three vessels rafted together under one anchor, transferring coal in the exposed waters of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, “ continues Ms Gerlach. “Within the marine park, this is not a permitted activity according to federal law, so why is it being considered?”
As Ms Gerlach concludes, “If approved, this proposal would set a dangerous precedent for treating our iconic Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area as a coal port. The Great Barrier Reef is a Park, not a Port.”
Press Release, April 28, 2013