When my daughter was two we went snorkeling at Great Keppel Island. Her excitement over the coral, which she called “water wowas” – translated as ‘water flowers’ – was a joy to watch. Two years later we still tell bedtime stories about that trip.

The other day she asked about my work. I told her I’m trying to protect the water flowers from being destroyed by dirty great big piles of coal. It’s a crude over-simplification but it pretty much sums it up. 

Australians are the proud custodians of one of the world’s greatest treasures – the Great Barrier Reef. But it is under threat from the coal and gas export boom.
Our new report details the enormous coal expansion plans that are putting Queensland’s magnificent reef at risk. It exposes plans for six massive coal port expansions in the World Heritage area. One of the ports, Abbot Point, is planned to become nearly three times larger than any other coal port in the world. 

If the coal industry plans proceed unchecked, there will be over 10,000 coal ships passing through the reef each year - more than one ship departing port every hour of every day. Millions of tonnes of sea floor will be dredged and dumped in the marine park.

The guardians of World Heritage – UNESCO – arrive in Australia next week to investigate impacts on the reef. With the spotlight of the world focusing on Australia, the Australian and Queensland Governments have agreed to do an 18-month ‘strategic assessment’ of the impacts of development on the reef.

Sounds good but what’s the catch? 

It looks like major industrial projects in the World Heritage area may be approved by our governments before they’ve finished their strategic assessment! We must ensure this doesn’t happen – these projects should not get approval while the assessment is conducted. Otherwise it will be too late and the damage will be done.

The Great Barrier Reef is far too precious to let it be trashed by the coal industry. We need your help to defend it. 

This is the beginning of a vital campaign to protect our reef and our climate.
Thank you for being part of this critical work.

John Hepburn
Senior Campaigner
Greenpeace Australia Pacific
The acclaimed Disneynature film ‘OCEANS’ will be screened for one night only at Base Backpackers in Nelly at 7pm on Thursday 16 February.

All are warmly welcome to attend this family-friendly FREE screening.

The event is part of North Queensland Conservation Council’s Protect our Coral Sea campaign and is supported by MINCA.

The Protect our Coral Sea campaign aims to persuade the Australian government establish a large, world-class, highly protected marine park in the Coral Sea in order to protect the area’s fabulously rich environmental and historical values.

For more information and to make an online submission to the Federal Minister go to protectourcoralsea.org

OCEANS is an ecological drama/documentary exploring and celebrating the depths and wonders of our planet’s oceans. OCEANS was reviewed in Urban Cinefile as “Enthralling, enlightening, meditative and often humorous ... a wonderful documentary about the oceans and those who live within it”.

Don’t miss OCEANS. 7pm Thursday 16 February at BASE backpackers. FREE!

The organisers thank BASE Backpackers for their support.

The first day of February 2012 was a big day for the coast of Queensland, especially that part of it around Magnetic Island. 

Two major issues featured in cyberspace – the first, the promulgation of the new Queensland Coastal Management Plan and the second the call for comments on elements of the proposed Townsville Port expansion. Full documentation of the current call for comment can be found here.
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Figure 1.2 - Environmental Protection Areas

The Coastal Management Plan

The Coastal Management Plan recognizes that coastal landforms and habitat can be protected by retaining the land in a relatively natural state and free from permanent or non-expendable buildings or infrastructure. Active management of coastal land is required to avoid loss or damage of vegetation and habitat; ensure surface flow modifications do not occur or, where necessary, do not cause erosion or create land instability; address adverse impacts caused by pest plants and animal;  avoid intensive recreational activities impacting on ecological values or natural coastal landforms; control beach access, particularly by vehicles, to avoid erosion, protect ecological values, and ensure beach goers can enjoy the environment in safety.

The management policy applies to coastal land and its resources within the coastal zone. Coastal land includes land under tidal waters, erosion prone areas, and at risk from storm tide inundation or permanent inundation due to sea level rise (collectively called coastal hazard areas), coastal roads and esplanades, reserves and unallocated State land, and other parcels of land adjacent to the foreshore. Coastal resources are the natural and physical features, processes, places or objects of the coastal zone that have ecological, economic or social value. This includes areas of high ecological significance (HES). Most of Magnetic Island is shown in the Plan as HES.

The management policy applies to management planning, activities, decisions and works that are not assessable development under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 and therefore not subject to the State Planning Policy for Coastal Protection (SPP).

The proposed expansion of the Port of Townsville

The main components of the proposed development include:

·  Construction of a new outer harbour formed by the construction of a new breakwater approximately one kilometre seaward of the existing northern breakwater and deepening of the harbour area

·  Potential construction of a new western breakwater

·  Construction of up to six additional vessel berths in the new harbour

·  Deepening of the existing approach channels

·  Widening of the approach channel near the outer harbour entrance

·  Creation of approximately 100 hectares of reclaimed land backing the new berths to provide for bulk cargo storage and rail loop, all formed from material reclaimed from the harbour deepening. This will include external and internal bunds to facilitate land reclamation

·  Placement of unsuitable and excess dredge materials at sea in the existing dredge material placement area  in Cleveland Bay

·  Installation of new navigation aids

·  Construction of new road and rail infrastructure within the project footprint and connection to the Eastern Access Corridor currently under construction

·  Installation of new service utilities infrastructure

·  Ten million cubic metres of dredging: five million cubic metres is proposed for offshore disposal and five million cubic metres is proposed for disposal in the reclamation.

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Figure 3.1 - Port expansion project layout

At this stage, comments are limited to those relating to the scope and presentation of studies and information required in the (EIS) Environment Impact Statement to allow for an assessment and decision on the appropriateness of the proposal, rather than the merits of the proposed action. MINCA will be making a submission on the proposed port expansion and invites others to collaborate in this submission. The deadline for submissions is 5pm Friday 2 March.