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Lapse of Reef coal terminal creates opportunity to protect Fitzroy Delta

Thu 8 May 2014

The Fight for the Reef campaign today said the apparent collapse of a controversial coal terminal proposal in the iconic Fitzroy River Delta near Rockhampton was “a win for the Reef and the rare snub fin dolphin”.

Felicity Wishart, Great Barrier Reef campaign director for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the Queensland Government now had an ideal opportunity to enhance protection of the largest intact estuary that flows into the Reef.

The Mitchell Group’s Fitzroy Terminal Project was declared a Significant Project by the Queensland Government in 2011 but this week a government notice announced that the terminal’s Coordinated Project declaration had lapsed.

The two year time limit for the proponent to produce an Environmental Impact Statement had expired.

“Locals had opposed the coal terminal for years and it was a grave risk to the region’s beauty and wildlife,” Ms Wishart said.

“It was totally inappropriate for the highly sensitive Fitzroy Delta and Keppel Bay region, home of the elusive snub fin dolphin.

“Internationally renowned marine ecologist Professor Callum Roberts described the Fitzroy Delta as the ‘Sistine Chapel’ of the world’s estuaries,” she said.

WWF-Australia Great Barrier Reef campaigner Richard Leck said the time was right to enshrine permanent protection of this important area.

“Last week UNESCO welcomed indications from the Queensland government that it would protect the Fitzroy Delta,” Mr Leck said.

“A great first step would be to ensure that the yet-to-be-released Ports Strategy rules out all port expansion activity for Keppel Bay and the Fitzroy Delta including northern Curtis Island,” he said.

The Fitzroy Terminal Project would have used a method known as transhipping to transport up to 22 million tonnes of coal each year through the delicate Fitzroy Delta.

It would have involved rail lines through the wetlands, coal stockpiles on the foreshore, and a three kilometre long coal conveyor.

These would have connected with coal barges running 24/7 to a floating transhipper to transfer the coal to bulk carriers anchored in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

“Transhipping projects in other parts of the world have seen coal wash up on the local beaches and children suffering skin irritations,” Ms Wishart said.

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