In this adjournment this evening, I would like to welcome the environment minister's announcement this week that there will be zero capital disposal anywhere in the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The ban will be put into law through regulation and will apply to all applications for capital dredge disposal in the marine park, whether past, present or future. The Greens and Labor pretend that they are the only ones that care about the reef. But, of course, we know that is very wrong.
Coming into government, we inherited five major proposals from Labor to dispose of dredge spoil in the marine park. We have reduced that to zero and are now putting that ban into law.
This step forward is just one part of a much wider suite of measures that we have put in place to give greater legal protection to the reef than any government before us. We will not let it be listed as in danger when UNESCO meets in May.
People can make comment on the new dredge ban until 27 March. They need to visit the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's website for the details.
This is reinforcing a view that I have had for a long time on proposed dredging of the port of Cairns. It is absolutely critical that we look for a land based solution. I have certainly argued on that for a long time.
I have been working on this since I was responsible for Geoscience Australia some years ago, when I convened a meeting back in May 1999 at Edmonton in a suburb south of Cairns. At the time, I released a ground-breaking report by CSIRO researchers on the acid sulphate soil crisis in East Trinity, a result of cultivation of the salt pans there in the 1960s when it was being prepared in an attempt to grow sugar cane.
In a media release at the time, I said: 'The report on East Trinity reads like an absolute horror story. Every day that passes is another day when the equivalent of up to 14,300 litres of sulphuric acid pours unchecked into our Cairns inlet.'
By using dredge spoil on the 365-hectare East Trinity site, it will deliver multiple economic, social and environmental dividends.
Firstly, it will stop dredging, whether it be maintenance dredging or capital dredging, from dropping into the barrier reef lagoon.
Secondly, by putting it on a land base, it will contain the existing acid sulphate contamination, which is, as I say, leaking into the East Trinity site and into the barrier reef lagoon.
Thirdly, it will also provide an opportunity for residential growth in the East Trinity site for some 25,000 people, and it will certainly take significant pressure off the hill slopes as we look to grow our fair city.
Fourthly, it will go a long way to preventing the ribbon development which is extending to the south past Gordonvale and, in doing so, will help to protect prime agricultural land.
Fifthly, it will also contain the city's footprint and, in doing so, will reduce the cost of providing infrastructure and services to the community, and it will certainly revitalise our CBD area.
If it were not for the dredging activities, though, and these are important, large areas of Cairns, such of Portsmith and the airport, would not be in existence, because a lot of that was created through dredge spoil.
I welcome the support of people like Norm Whitney and Peter Senior who have really done a good job in highlighting this. Norm, in particular, has a very comprehensive knowledge of the area, in his role as the president of the East Trinity Ratepayers and Residents Association.
Last December, in a letter to the editor of the Cairns Post, Norm again mentioned the economic potential of a residential development and highlighted what was happening at East Trinity at the moment when he said: 'Much of the property is now overgrown with weeds and overrun by feral pigs, crocodiles and vermin, with a large area of dead melaleuca trees.'
These dead melaleuca trees were a result of an attempt by a local environmental group to create an artificial wetland and, by allowing the saltwater inundation into the area, destroyed beautiful groves of melaleucas.
The reality is that we can have a healthy environment and a very strong economy. The science is there. We need to have a deeper harbour and all the benefits there without making any impact on our reef.
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