Long-awaited dredging project to proceed in Trinity Inlet
Dredging of Trinity Inlet is expected to start in early 2019 after the State Co-Ordinator General today approved the $120 million project.
Economic modelling suggests the $120 million project will generate an estimated $850 million benefit to the local tourism sector over the next two decades with increased passenger expenditure, port charges and associated supplies and servicing.
The approval by the Co-Ordinator General comes with 290 conditions, aimed at protecting water quality and the Great Barrier Reef. The project faces just one hurdle, with approval from the Federal Government required before it can proceed.
Today's approval has already drawn fire from a range of critics on both sides of the political divide. Port advocates claim it will only extend the inlet's capabilities to welcome larger ships for another decade, while environmentalists say the project should not proceed due to the Inlet's proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.
Speaking in Cairns today, State Development Minister Cameron Dick said the project will be a "game-changer" for the local tourism industry.
Mr Dick said that a total of 183 cruise ships are predicted to visit Cairns by 2031, creating 2730 direct and indirect full-time equivalent ongoing jobs in the region.
"The Cairns Shipping Development Project will allow for over 100 additional cruise ships to berth annually in the Port of Cairns by 2031," he said.
“This will potentially result in a tripling of the number of passenger days spent in Cairns each year due to cruise ship tourism, being an increase of 225,000 passenger days each year by 2031.
“In his evaluation report, the Coordinator-General evaluated all the possible environmental impacts and sets comprehensive conditions to manage potential impacts on Trinity Inlet within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and state marine park.
“They include managing marine water quality, plant clearing and activity in the state marine park."
Port advocate and former Federal election candidate Daniel McCarthy said the project was only suitable for current cruise liners, with future vessels likely to be too large for the scope of dredging approved today.
The approved project reducing the volume of dredging by 77 per cent compared to the previous LNP Government plan, down from 4.4 million cubic metres to 1 million cubic metres. All capital dredge material will be placed on land rather than at sea as previously proposed.
"Whilst we welcome the project as a good step in the right direction, sadly as expected the down-scaled project will only extend working life of the Cairns Port by 8 to 10 years," he said.
"Both State and Federal Governments and both Labor and Liberal have once again bowed to the ‘gang Greens’ and let international bodies like UNESCO to call the shots on our regional economy."