The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has expressed concerns about the environmental and economic impacts of proposals to make the Port of Cairns into a mega port.
Gemma Plesman AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaigner, said that if Cairns got the status of a ‘priority port,’ that would clear the path for the construction of not only the proposed cruise ship terminal, but other major port facilities as well.
‘‘Expanding the Port of Cairns is unnecessary since the local tourism industry can thrive without further dredging in Trinity Inlet,” Plesman said.
”A report from James Cook University [‘Economic Opportunities and Risks of Cruise Tourism in Cairns’] found that the cruise ship terminal won’t benefit the local economy as much as expanding land based tourism, since cruise ship passengers tend to contribute very little to the local economy. A mega port in Cairns won’t enhance the economic benefits significantly compared to the current practice of cruise ships anchoring offshore and transporting passengers to shore in smaller vessels.”
The so-called Cairns Shipping Development Project seeks to widen the channel into the Port of Cairns from 90 meters to 130 meters through the removal of 4.4 million cubic metres of material
to improve access for large cruise ships
”Deepening the shipping channel will cost around AUD 400 million and require 4.4 million cubic metres of capital dredging, and the State Government has ruled out providing funding for the project,” Plesman said.
”On top of this, once the channel is widened, it will require 100,000 cubic metres of extra maintenance dredging every year, and that dredge spoil would be dumped at sea in the Reef World Heritage Area. Dredging the inlet and dumping the maintenance spoil at sea would result in serious damage to the environment – a healthy environment is the reason for a booming tourism industry in the region. The Queensland and Australian government have both just made a commitment to the World Heritage Committee to focus industrial development on four priority ports – not five. It would be a major concern for UNESCO if that commitment was not fulfilled.”