The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has spoken out against plans that could see Cairns become a mega-port, and warned of the huge impacts this could have on the Great Barrier Reef.
“If Cairns is designated a ‘priority port’ under the Queensland Government’s new ports legislation, the door will be open not just to millions of tonnes of capital dredging, but also to major new port facilities,” said Gemma Plesman, AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaigner.
“This is not the clean green image Cairns wants and needs, and the increase in water pollution and ship traffic would be detrimental for the tourism industry.”
The Queensland Government’s Sustainable Ports Development Bill designates Gladstone, Mackay, Abbot Point and Townsville as “priority ports”, and new port development and capital dredging is to be concentrated in those areas.
Expanding the Port of Cairns is unnecessary since the local tourism industry can thrive without further dredging in Trinity Inlet.
“A recent James Cook University report found that whether a cruise ship docks in a port or anchors offshore and transfers passengers by smaller boats to land actually makes no difference to the number of people disembarking and coming to explore the local area,” said Ms Plesman.
“This means that dredging for bigger channels is not necessary for the Cairns’ tourism economy to access the benefits of the cruise ship industry.
“Dredging the inlet would result in serious damage to the environment – a healthy environment is the reason for a booming tourism industry in the region.
“Having smaller boats transporting passengers from large ships to the shore provides an alternative to dredging.
“The report shows that investing in dredging to enable larger cruise ships to access Cairns is an expensive and damaging activity that has questionable economic benefits.
“The local community can still gain benefits from cruise shipping without the need for further dredging in the Reef’s waters at Trinity Inlet,” concluded Ms Plesman.