Port Development

The Current Revised Proposal
The Main Campaign
The Original Proposal
Why Are We Involved?


Current Revised Proposal

In early 2015 the original proposal for the dredge in Trinity Inlet was refused by the Queensland government, based on the final Environmental Impact Statement.

The Great Barrier Reef Environmental Minister Stated that “We’re not going to waste $40 million subsidising a dredging project which has now been exposed as environmentally and economically unsustainable,” (Cairns Post, April 18, Trinity Inlet dredging canned after EIS raises issues)

As a result a Revised draft EIS requested by Coordinator-General. We are now currently waiting on the proponent to release the revised EIS.

Recent media has suggested that the proponent will be amending the original proposal (please see below) from 4.4 million cubic meters to 1 million cubic metres of dredging at Trinity Inlet near Cairns. There have been suggestions that there is a focus on land disposal of the dredge material. As the revised EIS has not been released yet, we don’t know for certain what the proponent is putting forward in the amended proposal.

November 2015 The Sustainable Ports Bill

After campaigning from many different groups throughout QLD, The Marine Response Team included, the sustainable ports bill was passed without amendment. There was a major in lobby in Cairns to have the Trinity Inlet declared a ‘Priority Port’, allowing it to have capital dredge (new dredging) in the future. However Cairns was not included, which means that any future proposal for a capital dredge cannot go ahead.

The unfortunate news is that, as the Ports North Dredge proposal was established before the Sustainable Ports Act was introduced, it remains unaffected.

The Main Campaign

At this point the CAFNEC Marine Response Team, stepped up to ensure that the community was aware and engaged, that the draft EIS was sufficient and the wider population of Australia knew of the potential threat to the Great Barrier Reef, mangroves and other important ecosystems.

The Original Proposal

In July 2012 Ports North released the initial advice statement, advising of a proposal with a capital dredge of up to 5, 073, 600 m3. In October 2012 the commonwealth minister declared the development a ‘controlled action’ and it was declared a coordinated project. It wasn’t until June 2015 the draft Environmental Impact Statement was released.

This proposal is reportedly to allow larger cruise liners to enter. The claim is that this will provide economic benefits to the city, however this is yet to be backed up by economic data. Our concern is that this major dredging operation will jeopardise the health of the marine ecosystems that many of our tourists come to see. A healthy reef is fundamental to a healthy tourism economy, so any risks to reef health should not be taken lightly.

The proposed Cairns Shipping (Trinity Inlet)  Development Project would mean digging up an estimated over 4.4 million m3 of dredge spoil (around 7 million tonnes), which is a massive amount and is more than what is proposed for Abbot Point. Dredge spoil, the mud and other sediment removed from the sea floor, often contains heavy metals and other contaminants from industrial land uses and shipping. Options for dredge spoil disposal include dumping in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park or onshore dumping options, both of which pose risks to marine life by increasing sediment and nutrient loads and introducing contaminants. Onshore dumping poses risks to terrestrial habitats as well as marine environments.

Why Are We Involved

Given the proximity of the Inlet to Great Barrier Reef, and its value to the tourism industry, we believe that the risks are too high and that this activity should only go ahead if it can be clearly shown that the dredging will have no adverse impact on the natural environment. Issues of concern include:

  • Direct impacts on marine life such as  fish, dugongs and turtles.
  • The impact of environmental damage from dredging on the tourism industry, recreational fishing and commercial fishing. Events after capital dredging in
  • Gladstone should send us a clear warning about potential impacts in Trinity Inlet.
  • The release of potentially contaminated sediment into the greater Trinity environment and it’s impact on both human and wildlife health.
  • Impacts on critical habitat including seagrass beds and coral reef.
  • The cumulative impact of this proposal in the context of the broader Great Barrier Reef environment and the massive increase in maintenance dredging that would be required.
  • The environmental and amenity damage of increased (possibly toxic) mud washing up on our Northern beaches.

About Trinity Inlet

  • The beautiful Trinity Inlet in Cairns is an extensive estuarine area home to abundant life and is the spectacular meeting point of rainforested hills, intact mangrove systems and the marine ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef. The inlet is also home to the port of Cairns and is a thriving hub of activity.
  • The Barron and Trinity catchments both flow into Cairns Harbour and Trinity Inlet. Agricultural and urban developments are the primary land uses in both catchments.
  • The area supports significant seagrass habitat and represents the largest area of seagrass between Hinchinbrook and Cooktown. These seagrass meadows provide critical nursery habita tand are feeding habitats for dugong (Dugong dugon), green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) and wading bird populations. The seagrass beds are currently in trouble and at their lowest level of coverage in recorded history.
  • Trinity Inlet is also a significant cultural and economic resource for the Gunggandji, Yidinji and Yirranydji people. At least 11 fishing sites and four crabbing sites have been identified as being significant to indigenous peoples  for regional prawn and finfish fisheries of the region. Significant sites include freshwater, estuarine creeks, foreshores, seagrass beds, wetlands and offshore areas from Ellie Point to False Cape.

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