Friday 11 March 2011

Destroying mangroves for the Cairns airport runways

A significant portion of mangroves surrounding the Cairns airport will be bulldozed if a plan to increase the airport runways goes ahead, with just a thin strip preserved on either side of Airport Drive.

A draft Cairns Airport land use plan was presented to Cairns Regional councillors on 23rd February.

"Why are we, in the community, having to spend so much unpaid time fighting campaigns just to defend existing Natural and Cultural Heritage," local environmentalist Geoff Holland said in reaction to the mangrove removal proposal.

"Why did we fight for False Cape, for the Cairns Yacht Club, for the preservation of City Place, and now for the mangrove wetlands adjacent to the Cairns International Airport?"

"Why is Local Government, State Government and Federal Government not defending our Natural Heritage and Cultural Heritage for us?" Geoff Holland asks.

"The deadline for submissions regarding the proposed development, or destruction, of most of the mangrove wetlands adjacent to Cairns International Airport has already passed, even though most people who have heard about," Holland says. "How can this be? There is a serious failure of the process of governance."

"Fishermen say that this is an important habitat for fish breeding," Geoff Holland says. "We need to conserve the mangroves for the benefit of local recreational fishermen. This may be so, but what we need to remember is that perhaps the greatest eco-crisis we are facing today is mass species extinction."

Holland says that between 5-50 species are becoming extinct every day worldwide, according to UNEP, and the greatest cause of this, more than climate change, is loss of natural habitat.

"Wetlands are one of the most important forms of natural habitat, and the one of the most endangered forms of habitat on the planet," Holland says. "This is why we have the international Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to which Australia is a party. The Australian government sets off to 'unenlightened Third World countries' such as the Philippines, preaching how they must protect their mangrove forests, and also providing aid money, while we are happy to turn ours into runways."

Many local green activists have recently lobbied to set up East Trinity Wetlands Park with a research station.

"We as a community must prevent the plan to destroy most of the natural habitat of mangrove forest wetlands adjacent to Cairns International Airport," Holland says. "If the plan goes ahead, it would not be inappropriate to mount an international Internet campaign inviting international travellers to stay away because of the cost of their landing at Cairns International Airport."

"Shame on Ports North and shame on Cairns Regional Council, State Government and Federal Government for even allowing this proposal to be seriously considered. We must not underestimate the number of international and also interstate travellers who can and would easily choose another holiday destination."

Holland says that if the community accept the need for some expansion, as we come to terms with the idea of local limits to growth, we could consider moving light aircraft to a possible new airport near Edmonton or Gordonvale.

"I think building a new airport for large aircraft at Koah or Mareeba is inappropriate because we should not put added pressure on the Kuranda Range Road, nor encourage urban sprawl."

Council's manager of Planning Strategies, Peter Boyd says the Cairns Airport is a significant component to the regional economy.

"It is imperative that any non-aviation commercial development is undertaken with consideration to the surrounding trade area and regional centres hierarchy," Peter Boyd says. "It is essential that Council provide comments to both the Minister for Infrastructure and
Planning and Cairns Airport to ensure both support and issues raised can be considered by both parties."

However Boyd says that Council needs to seek clarification between the conflicting legislative provisions to ensure the land use plan has been drafted appropriately to deliver an appropriate outcome for the Cairns region.


Bryan Outlaw said...

This is a lot of hot air and "sky is falling" nonsense.

While the airport authority is required to complete this master plan the reality is that there is little likelihood that the Cairns airport will ever have the level of traffic requiring a second airport. As a point of comparison, the Tokyo International Airport at Narita operated from 1972 until 2002 with only one runway - serving some 30 million passengers a year.

There is no conceivable way the Cairns airport will ever have this level of traffic.

There will NEVER be a second runway. Stop your yammering.

armyboi said...

Cairns is in the grip of recession with international and interstate travelers at its worst ever level. To mount a campaign on the internet to discourage travelers is tantamount to treason and should be thought of very carefully. Every worker and business in Cairns and surrounding area rely on the tourist dollar and anything that discourages that leaves the organizers of the cause open to law suites for loss of business. Yes I agree that habitat is important, but the livelihood of Cairns residents has also to be taken into consideration. Surely a compromise can be sought. Ever thought of sitting down with the airport management and government and discussing this rationally and without emotion? Give and take goes a long way, and outright negativity always fails somewhere along the line.

Aircraft are getting bigger and need longer runways for landing and take offs. If Cairns is to maintain or increase its share of the overseas tourist market then forward planning is needed now.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I read comments like, “Yes I agree that habitat is important, but...”, I am reminded of what Dr David Suzuki stated eloquently when he lectured to a packed auditorium at James Cook University last year: it is the environment, not the economy, upon which we depend for survival. The economy is purely a human construct that we have elevated to the position of a monster, something we cannot mess with. The environment, on the other hand, is relegated to a servant of the economy, and it’s perfectly OK to mess with it to protect the all-powerful ECONOMY. We have seriously got things the wrong way around!

The Earth gives us all we need to survive, but we keep treating it like a garbage dump, polluting our air, water and soil. Mangroves are essential to help keep our oceans free of run-off, yet we think it’s acceptable to bulldoze them to build a new runway and a new retail precinct (does Cairns really need more shops?).

The Reef is already under stress from rising water temperatures, which contribute to more severe cyclones, and acidification from increased levels of carbon dioxide. Clearing more mangroves will only add to this stress. There is little point in expanding Cairns Airport if there is no Reef left (or a severely degraded one) for tourists to see.

Barry said...

Reply to armyboi comments.

I agree with you comments on Cairns struggling economy and yes we do need to look at ways of getting tourists here, unfortunately the east coast of Queensland is suffering so the relevant bodies need to sit down and say "what are we doing wrong and what can we do better".
I don't believe that the mangroves should be disturb because of some brainless thought tof moving the General Aviation to the eastern side of the airport.
The general aviation has survived for years on the present location so why move it?.
When I was working at the airport during the "so called upgrade" but really it is only a patch up job I got to know a lot of the builders etc and they said that they presented a design to the then Cairns Port Authority to pull down the domestic building and build one from the ground up which would have included domestic and international flights combined saving the airport some $80. million dollars, something similiar to Adelaides airport completed in 1998 ( which they say will last for the next 50 years.
According to the builders involved with the upgrade of Cairns airport the upgrade will only last probably 10 years and will then have to be upgraded or rebuilt.
As far as the runway goes the present runway 15/33 are quite adequate for the traffic presently flying into Cairns except for the A380 which is wider and heavier but we won't see that aircraft come for many years as it wouldn't be a viable option for the the airlines.
We have had aircrafts land here and still do such as: B747, B737, A320, A330, A340.
The Galaxy and one of the worlds largest freighters the Russian built Antonov which have no problems landing or taking off at Cairns Airport.
Cairns runway is 10486ft in length equals 1.985 miles or 3.196 kms in length and comparing it to Kingsford Smith Airport the main runways 16r/34r is 13,000 ft, equals 2.4 miles or 3.962 in length so the runway in Cairns doesn't need to be lengthened.
What we need is PUBLIC CONSULTATION as these changes concern the livelihood of all residents.


Al said...

Re armyboi's comment:
"Aircraft are getting bigger and need longer runways for landing and take offs".
No they are not! At least not in Cairns.
Not many years ago, Cairns used to have four or five daily international flights utilising 747-200/300 aircraft, the then biggest. Now, the biggest are the considerably smaller Boeing 767-300 and Airbus A330. Nothing to do with the capabilities of the airport, everything to do with the economics of operating the most efficient equipment - and that will never be the 747-800 or the A380 super jumbo. The runways and airport cannot support them, and they are only economic on hub to hub airports (read: very big city to very big city). Clearing the mangroves at Cairns Airport will only ever be about its new owners building non-airport commercial facilities eg: shopping centres and suchlike.