The Cairns and Far North Environment Centre (CAFNEC) is drawing attention to the rumoured release of the Cairns Port Dredging proposal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) over the holiday/Christmas period.
While the State and Federal Governments have had the completed EIS for weeks, the release of the document for public comment has been delayed. Most observers expect the EIS to be released at the end of November. This would mean the statutory 6 week public comment period would fall over the holidays and Christmas.
CAFNEC Marine Programs Coordinator Josh Coates said: “Hiding the public comment period for the Cairns Port Dredging proposal behind the holiday period is a disrespectful tactic and we are calling on the Government to now hold off on releasing the EIS until well into next year, if at all.
“We all know that December and early January in the far North is not the best time for real community engagement on this important issue.
“The Government had the chance to release this earlier this month but we suspect the controversial nature of dredging and dumping proposals have lead the Government to sit on it in order to hide behind Christmas for public comment.
“This proposal is risky to the environment and our tourism and fishing industries, and represents a massive commitment of taxpayers money. It is only right that the Cairns and far North community have a non-holiday period to examine the implications of this expensive and risky proposal.
“I would suggest that it would be very difficult to find anyone outside of Government and Ports North who would say that releasing a lengthy and complex document in the far North over the Christmas break is a good community engagement strategy.
“There are alternatives to the proposal itself and multiple options for disposal of the 4.4 million cubic meters of acid sulphate soil contaminated dredge spoil, it is a lot for people to consider. The public deserves the opportunity to examine the options and make informed comment in the lead up to the State election next year. Hiding behind Christmas is a disrespectful attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the public at a time when most people’s attention is elsewhere.”