Balaclava Island and Fitzroy Terminal port sites underwaterLooking south - Below left is shoreline of Balaclava Island and Port Alma on the right on the shore of Raglan Creek
Looking north - the minor cargo facility of Port Alma beside Raglan Ck is surrounded by water. Balaclava Island above right.
KAFDA Media Release 16 Jan 2013
King tide reveals Fitzroy delta Terminals to be a stranded asset
Last weekend’s king tides totally inundated the proposed coal export terminals in the Fitzroy delta. Aerial photographs clearly show both the proposed Fitzroy Terminal and Xstrata terminal sites covered by the ocean, leaving only the tops of the highest mangroves exposed.
The Fitzroy and Keppel Bay Alliance (KAFDA), flew over the area at the height of last Saturday’s king tide and have a series of aerial photographs that graphically show the proposed export terminal sites completely under water.
Spokesperson for KAFDA, Ms Ginny Gerlach said the sight of the delta completely under water was stunning and revealing. She said the small existing general cargo facility at Port Alma looked like a tiny island poking out of a massive lake.
“When you see the delta on these king tides, it’s laughable that anyone could seriously think they could build new coal export terminals here without the need for massive reclamation works just to get equipment and workers to the sites,” said Ms Gerlach.
“The proponents are claiming they can build these new facilities with only minor disruption to the delta habitat”, continued Ms Gerlach. “There is no way in the world this is possible having witnessed the impact of these king tides first hand.”
“Putting aside these kind tides and the predicted sea level rise over the next few decades, it’s worth remembering what Port Hinchinbrook looked like after Cyclone Yasi went through. Imagine how much destruction will occur to coal terminals built on mangroves and saltpans in the Fitzroy delta when a cyclone pays us a visit sometime in the future, which is just a matter of when, not if.”
“This proposal is putting investors money at risk as much as it is risking the natural environment of our beautiful delta and any investors should be made aware of how real those risks are,” Ms Gerlach said. “These recent photos that show the whole place under water must surely demonstrate that a river delta like the mighty Fitzroy is simply the wrong place to try to build new export facilities,” concluded Ms Gerlach.
UNESCO have raised serious concerns with both the State and Federal governments about the proposed coal port development in the Fitzroy delta and have warned the Great Barrier Reef’s international World Heritage rating could be downgraded if new proposed coal ports at various locations adjacent to the Reef go ahead.
KAFDA is calling on the State and Federal governments to recognise the folly of pursuing coal export facilities anywhere in the Fitzroy delta and not approve any new facilities in this sensitive and important area.
UNESCO Report slams current developmentThe UNESCO REPORT might be GOOD NEWS FOR KEPPEL BAY
Capricorn Conservation Council (CCC) welcomes the UNESCO report which expresses "extreme concern" about the rapid increase of coastal developments, including ports infrastructure, in and around the Great Barrier Reef.
"Considering the high rate of approvals over the past 12 years, this unprecedented scale of development affecting and potentially affecting the property (Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area) poses serious concerns over its long-term conservation," says the UNESCO report.
UNESCO says the area could be listed as a World Heritage Site in danger if "threatening" developments are allowed to proceed. The "in danger" status could be applied if the federal government does not give the world heritage committee evidence of substantial progress before February 1.
The UNESCO report has also found that "There is a range of unaddressed concerns regarding the protection and management of the port and LNG facilities in Gladstone Harbour and on Curtis Island and the protection of its surrounding environment." The report recommends an independent review of the management of Gladstone Harbour. CCC fully supports this recommendation, given the huge environmental problems in Gladstone Harbour and the difficulty in extracting scientific information from the authorities.
The UNESCO report recommends that Australia should "not permit any new port development or associated infrastructure outside of the existing and long-established major port areas.” CCC believes that this should mean that Keppel Bay does not become another coal port.
CCC has been campaigning, along with Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance (KAFDA), to prevent the development of major coal ports in Keppel Bay at the mouth of the Fitzroy River.
While Premier Campbell Newman has stated that halting port growth is not an option, he has also said that “We shouldn’t be building a multitude of new ports, and we won’t be” (ABC radio news, June 3). We urge the RRC Mayor Margaret Strelow, GRC Mayor Gail Sellers, and Member for Keppel, Bruce Young to hold the Premier to this statement.
See CCC's media statement 3 June 2012.
FITZROY DELTA -
Coal Export Terminals or Nature Conservation
Is Balaclava Island Coal Export Terminal the beginning of the end for Keppel Bay??
1. First it will be Xstrata's Balaclava Island Coal Export Terminal.
2. Gladstone Ports Corp. then wants to increase the Balaclava Island port from Xstrata's two berths to a massive 8 (eight) berths. This is bigger than the existing RG Tanna wharf in Gladstone. Heaps more dredging and destruction of natural areas.
3. Then comes the unfortunately named "Fitzroy Terminal" (good to see their black humour at work) which will load coal onto barges in Raglan Creek and trans-ship the coal to large ships in Keppel Bay off the northern end of Curtis Island.
4. Gladstone Ports Corp then have long term plans for further major industrial facilities on the NW end of Curtis Island.
How much industrialisation do we want at the mouth of our Fitzroy River and in the southern end of Keppel Bay?
What many people don't realise is that both Balaclava Island and Curtis Island come within the jurisdiction of Gladstone Regional Council and Gladstone Ports Corporation. Having over-industrialised Gladstone Harbour, they are now moving towards the Capricorn Coast. Rockhampton Regional Council, which represents residents of the Capricorn Coast will have no control over these developments. Do residents and visitors to the Capricorn Coast have to put up with the coming degradation of the bay?
Habitat destruction - both marine and on land, loss of fish breeding areas, loss of visual amenity, and restrictions on boating areas due to massive increase in shipping traffic - will all result from these projects at the southern end of Keppel Bay.
See CCC's media release 14 Sep 2011 See KAFDA website See all media releases
Take Action Now! Click here to say: "No to Coal Ports in the Fitzroy Delta & Keppel Bay"
Background - Balaclava Island Coal Export Terminal
Capricorn Conservation Council (CCC) opposes Xstrata’s plans for the industrial development of Balaclava Island for a coal export facility in the Fitzroy River Delta on environmental grounds. CCC strongly believes that the environmental impacts that will result from the project construction and operation are far too great; the quality and extent of the habitats, wetlands, estuary, water quality and threatened or endangered terrestrial and marine flora and fauna needs to be preserved for conservation purposes and not compromised for industrial development that furthermore greatly increases our global carbon footprint and climate change impacts.
The Balaclava Island Coal Export Terminal (BICET) project is currently in the Environmental Impact Assessment period, with a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) being developed by Xstrata Coal Queensland for assessment under both State and Federal legislation following the final Terms of Reference (released in early June 2011 and available here for download).
In 2010 the then federal Department of Environment (now the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) took nearly four months to decide and assess the project under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) as a ‘controlled action’. This determination allowed the coal port to progress to the EIS stage after which the Queensland State Government gazetted the project as a ‘state significant project’.
As part of their EIS, Xstrata will be required to submit comprehensive studies and information on how their development will affect five controlling provisions (also Matters of National Environmental Significance) defined by the EPBC Act:
1. World Heritage properties,
2. National Heritage places,
3. Wetlands of international importance,
4. Listed threatened species and communities,
5. Listed migratory species.
The large number of EPBC controlling provisions as listed above, are not often seen, however the activities of dredging a channel in the river, establishing a railway line, conveyor belt (on a bund wall), coal stockpile yards and building 2 shipping berths will have impacts on these Matters of National Environmental Significance. Xstrata need to address these impacts by avoiding them, reducing them or mitigating them. CCC believes the precautionary principle should be applied and that the potential and actual impacts will be too great and thus the project should be totally avoided.
Summary of CCC’s concerns
The environmental impacts that will result from the project are numerous and CCC has great concerns about specific species, areas, ecosystems and water quality as follows:
• Yellow Chat
The proposed Railway Line will be located in close proximity to and potentially traverse essential habitat and breeding grounds for the Yellow Chat - a critically endangered bird species with a very small and localised Capricorn sub-species population. The sub-species population on the Fitzroy floodplain (there are recorded sitings on Raglan, Twelve-Mile and Inkerman Creeks, all of which form part of the Fitzroy River Delta and Southern Fitzroy Floodplain) relies on the habitat provided by native reeds and grasses lining creeks and ponds in the estuarine and freshwater interface of the creek channels, feeding on insects. They rely on the inundation of the salt marshes and CCC has great concerns that existing hydrogeological regimes (soil water movement), overland water flow and riverine-estuarine water movements will be altered greatly by the construction and operation of a railway line across this floodplain country, to an extent that will impact upon the food and habitat resources of Yellow Chat and pose a major threat to this subspecies population on marine plains. Link here to Yellow Chat research and posters/signage in the Twelve Mile Creek region.
• Fitzroy River Delta and Floodplain – nationally significant wetlands
The proposed railway line, conveyor belt, stockpile yards and shipping berths will traverse or lie adjacent to the nationally important wetlands of the Fitzroy River Delta and the Fitzroy Floodplain. CCC is concerned of the hydrological changes and consequential impacts to habitat and species distribution of flora and fauna (adjacent to or in these wetland areas) as a direct result of a), the construction of a bund wall of some 50-200 metres width to support the coal conveyor belt, and b), the railway line foundation/bund wall to support the railway line. These wetlands are important for native waterbirds and migratory birds. Link here to data information sheet of these two nationally listed wetlands.
• Inshore Dolphin populations
Dredging for the shipping channel and the two shipping berths will occur in the known habitat range of the Indo-Pacific Humpback and Snub-fin Dolphin. The Snub-fin Dolphin is an IUCN red listed species and the Indo-pacific Humpback Dolphin is listed as near threatened under the Nature Conservation Act. CCC is concerned about the noise and water quality impacts from dredging and the increased boat/ship traffic in the Fitzroy Delta and Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA). Please refer to our more detailed comments on the Snub-fin and Indo-Pacific Humpack Dolphins here.
• Flatback turtles
The Flatback turtle is listed as vulnerable under the EPBC Act. The shipping channel for Balaclava Island comes within 6km of Peak Island; a Preservation (Pink) Zone in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and a major nesting site of the Flatback Turtle which is one of the two largest nesting populations in eastern Australia (Limpus, 1983). Specifically, CCC is concerned about the impacts of:
1. Increased shipping on turtle nesting and shallow feeding areas close to Peak Island as the shipping channel comes within 6km of this protected site;
2. Increased noise and lighting on Flatback Turtle nesting and hatching cycles;
3. Increased vibration from shipping on Flatback Turtles and marine cetaceans in the mouth of the Fitzroy River; and
4. The possibility of a major oil or coal spill so close to Keppel Bay Islands
Ecosystems and threatened species of the Fitzroy Delta
Pristine mangrove communities cover about 15,000 hectares of the Fitzroy Delta. They perform multiple functions in keeping the area healthy and productive while providing key habitat for birds and waterbirds. However salt flats and saltmarsh are the most prominent features of the delta and cover more than 26,000 hectares. This ecological community is a vibrant food bank and nutrient source for diverse species. Ephemeral wetlands ranging from small brackish lagoons to extensive systems covering hundreds of hectares also contribute to the biodiversity values of the delta. Unusual beach cheniers (long shell grit dunes) support endangered vine scrubs in a marine environment – these are protected ecosystems under the EPBC Act. The Fitzroy River Delta and estuarine tributaries surrounding Balaclava Island are declared Fish Habitat Areas and are nursery grounds for barramundi, king salmon, blue salmon, bream, mud crabs, prawns, molluscs and over 80 other fish species. Three species of dolphin including the rare Indo-pacific humpback dolphin and rare Snub-fin dolphin are found at the mouth of the Fitzroy River, around Balaclava Island. Other vulnerable marine creatures such as dugong and flatback turtle frequent these waters.
Saltmarsh – an under-rated ecosystem
Balaclava Island is in a natural and relatively undisturbed state and protects high biodiversity and productivity values. The island represents the most extensive and least disturbed example of these communities within the Fitzroy delta. Furthermore, the island’s salt flats and algal mats are a food bank, possessing the unique capacity to store nutrients such as orthophosphates and silicates which are then dragged or flushed into surrounding estuaries on seasonal high tides. This extraordinary production process supports the Fitzroy River Fish Habitat Area, which is declared under the Queensland Fisheries Act 1994, includes parts of the Fitzroy River estuary, Raglan Creek and the wetland systems surrounding North Curtis Island. A map and description of the Fitzroy River Fish Habitat Area can be obtained here. Research suggests that this out-welling of tidal and rainwater from saltmarshes triggers the growth of prawns, crabs, molluscs and fish which use the surrounding estuaries as nurseries and feeding zones.¹ As a result, the Fitzroy River Delta is widely recognised as an important commercial and recreational fishing location. Commercial operators in this area contribute more than 10% of the state’s commercial catch. Saltmarshes also host waterbirds which feed and roost there. Development on Balaclava Island could severely interfere with these complex ecosystem services.
Littoral Rainforest & Beach Cheniers
Coastal Vine Scrubs (also known as Littoral Rainforest) on Balaclava Island and other adjacent sites are used by migrating and nomadic rainforest birds. For example, Top Knot Pigeon (nomads) and Rose-crowned superb fruit dove, Shining Flycatcher, and other migrating species. Rare examples of vine scrub forest with native bauhinia trees also occurs there on large, wave-piled, shell grit dunes called ‘beach cheniers’.
These protected and highly unique ecosystems (Regional Ecosystem 11.2.3) have underlying fresh water storages and will be impacted heavily by the construction of Xstrata’s overland conveyor system and bund wall. Beach cheniers rely on tidal surges for continued placement of shell grit, hence, any man-made interference will alter or stop tidal movements and soil water flows and movements will be altered, and there is no doubt this will impact on the health and conservation value of the ecosystem and result in the decline of the health and extent.
The Black Breasted Button Quail is a specialist inhabitant of Littoral Rainforest and is listed under the EPBC Act as a vulnerable species. It may be present in the Littoral Rainforest on Balaclava Island, and if so, would be threatened by habitat degradation and the introduction of pest predators such as the feral fox, cat and dogs via an infrastructure link to the mainland.
Threatened dolphins – The Snubfin dolphin and Indo Pacific Humpback dolphin
Emerging marine research has found that a sizeable population of Australian Snub-fin Dolphin exclusively inhabit the Fitzroy delta and the northern end of Curtis Island. This isolated population of about 50-75 individuals have very low genetic diversity which means they have a decreased ability to adapt to changes in their environment. Their ‘rare’ listing under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 is currently being reviewed, with calls to have their status upgraded to ‘endangered’. Their survival depends on continued access to food sources and the maintenance of their habitat area. CCC is very concerned about the impacts that dredging will have on their habitat zone including increased noise and shipping movements, coal dust and potential reduction in water quality with the disturbance of Actual Acid Sulphate Soils and Potential Acid Sulphate Soils.
More than 5 years of research has been completed on Inshore Dolphins (Snub-fin Dolphin or Indo-pacific Humpback Dolphin) in the Fitzroy River. More information can be found here. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has a fact sheet on the Australian Snub-fin dolphin here.
Fitzroy River Fish Habitat Area
The declared Fish Habitat Area and the entire Fitzroy River Delta and estuary are of national significance and from a fisheries perspective is highly productive. The Fitzroy River catchment/basin is the largest east coast catchment in Australia draining to the Great Barrier Reef and the World Heritage Area. The Area is a “Significant area of complex and diverse fish habitats containing 9 habitats”2. Pristine mangrove forest covers 14% of the 110,000 hectares of the Fitzroy River Delta, and the Delta also boasts marine and estuarine waters, sandy beaches, intertidal mud and sand flats, intertidal marshes brackish lagoons rocky structure and under-cut riverbanks; all of which provide excellent breeding, nursery, food and habitat values for fish, crabs, prawns and other marine fauna.
Although Balaclava Island itself is not part of the Fish Habitat Area, it was identified as part of the Fish Study Area in the 2002 Report on Habitats and Fishery Resources of the Fitzroy Estuary. A map of the Declared Fitzroy River Habitat Area can be downloaded here.
CCC has great concerns about the dredging and operational impacts that the proposed Coal Export Terminal will have on the quality of the feeding, breeding and nursery resources that the Fish Habitat Area currently provides for fish, crabs, prawns, other crustaceans and marine and estuarine fauna such as crocodiles, dolphins, dugongs and turtles. Disturbance of Potential and Acid Sulphate Soils in the dredging process could result in detrimental impacts (including deaths) to marine fauna populations and the local commercial and recreational fishing industry.
¹ Department of Environmental and Resource Management, (2005). ‘Saltmarsh wetlands’, Wetland management profile, Queensland Government.
2. Long, P.E., & McKinnon, S.G., (2002). ‘Habitats and Fisheries Resources of the Fitzroy River Estuary (Central Queensland)’.
Community Reference Panel
Our Coordinator attends the Community Reference Panel meetings for Balaclava Island Coal Export Terminal project, providing a voice for the environment in the community consultation process of the EIS. These meetings are arranged and facilitated by Xstrata. CCC is grateful to be included as a community representative in this process.
In conclusion, the Fitzroy River and its winding channels, delta and landforms provide many environmental benefits including flood mitigation, nutrient capture and storage, sediment entrapment and protection for offshore reefs. There can be no doubt that Xstrata’s coal port will forever alter the effectiveness of our river and delta and the vibrant connectivity that exists here in our backyard.
CCC’s submissions to the Federal and State Governments
CCC’s Draft Terms of Reference (ToR) submission to the Queensland Coordinator General
CCC’s EPBC referral submission to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Populations and Community (DSEWPaC).
CCC’s EPBC submission on request for reconsideration of Referral decision
Please join CCC in opposing this development. Contact your State member of parliament and tell them why you don't want another coal port in Central Qld, particularly at the mouth of the Fitzroy River, that will increase ship traffic in the Capricorn area of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and Marine Park and result in environmental impacts.
While Balaclava Island is in the electorate of Gladstone (Liz Cunningham) and the adjacent Port Alma is in the electorate of Mirani (Ted Malone) the biggest effect will be on the people of Keppel (Paul Hoolihan) as the queues of coal loading ships will be clearly visible from the coastal towns of Yeppoon, Emu Park and Keppel Sands, as will the floodlights of the coal loader burning all night.
Contact details are below for you to write, phone or email -
Bruce Young MP Keppel - ALP
Shop 3 Evia Building
3 Normanby Street
YEPPOON 4703 QLD
phone : (07) 4939 5732 OR 1800 817 504
Liz Cunningham MP Gladstone - IND
2/191 Philip Street
GLADSTONE 4680 QLD
phone : (07) 4978 4650 1800 810 547
Ted Malone MP Mirani - LNP
The Sarina Centre Central Street
PO Box 56
SARINA QLD 4737
phone : (07) 4956 1555 OR 1800 812 340