Questions and Answers

Is it true that dredging will endanger our beautiful reef?


NO.  All scientific reports based on evidence demonstrate dredging carried out within current regulations does not endanger our reef. Australian Engineers deliver world's best practice and it is highly regulated. 




Why do some people say dredging will endanger our reef?


Some of these people are well-meaning but misinformed.  Others have different or anti-progess agendas and ignore the facts, preferring scare-mongering.

I’m confused about ‘maintenance’ and ‘capital’ dredging. What is the difference?

  • Regular maintenance dredging is carried out to prevent the natural occurance of silting up.  Otherwise the channel would soon be too shallow for most port operations. 
  • This dredged spoil is barged out and dumped in a hole past the entrance to the Trinity Inlet.  Dredging is carried out within strict regulations.
  • Capital dredging is a one-time project to deepen and widen part of the port.  Dumping spoil from capital dredging at sea has recently been banned.
  • Putting spoil on land is usually more expensive than dumping it at sea.

Why is maintenance dredging allowed, but capital dredging now forbidden?

  • Very good question!  This ruling by Federal and State Governments is not logical -  but it’s happened and there  is little likelihood of reversing the ruling!
  • The ban on capital dredging in the Ports Bill is expected to be over-turned now 3 State members stated they will vote with the LNP against this section of the Ports Bill.

If the government prevents capital dredge spoil being placed inshore at the end of the inlet, shouldn’t they pay for any additional cost of putting the spoil on land?

  • YES. But Ports North draft EIS report stated the total cost for on-land placement would be $365m, which State Treasurer Curtis Pitt said is too expensive.
  • Cost estimates by different engineers suggest the EIS cost is far higher than necessary.

Now the Sustainable Ports Development legislation has been recently enacted by the Queensland Parliament how will it affect me?

  • Although the legislation was amended to allow for minor works around the harbour: 50,000 cubic metres a project limited to 150,000 cubic metres over a four year period, it is a 'draconian restriction' and to put it into context, the yearly maintenance dredging removes over 800,000 cubic metres of silt build up. 
  • Now that all future expansion is capped, the only lifeline we have is the Cairns Shipping Development project that is controlled by the Queensland government. This government has already announced that it does not support the projects DRAFT EIS outcome.
  • Our city and region deserve better and our organisation will be working towards amending the legislation.

Who controls the Cairns Shipping Development Project and how will it's outcome impact on me?

  • The project is controlled by Ports North, a corporation owned and directed by the Queensland Government. It is not an independent organisation controlled by the communities in Cairns and Far North Queensland, like the old Cairns Harbour Board. 
  • This government has already announced that it does not support the projects DRAFT EIS outcome:  Qld State Treasurer Curtis Pitt was reported in the Cairns Post on 15 May saying.  “What we’ve said is that Ports North, as the proponent, can go back, recast that EIS and make another proposal which has an emphasis on onshore disposal.’
  • The DRAFT EIS for the Cairns Shipping Development project is due to expire on the 31st March 2016.
  • The project has already costs taxpayers over $5,000,000 with another recent spend of $350,000.  
  • If the project does not succeed it will reduce both ports’ efficiency, so operational costs will keep rising, Cairns regional economy and employment opportunities will suffer instead of progressing.
  • Already many cargo ships such fuel tankers arrive and depart with half loads because the channel is too shallow.
  • It is likely that HMAS Cairns will not increase it's activities and more Navy operations will be carried out in Townsville.   

I read that a very long jetty would be suitable for the larger cruise ships and avoid the capital dredging?

  • Cruise ship owners want all their visits to be to our new cruise ship terminal.  Cruise companies – and passengers – rate Cairns as one of the best in the South Pacific – a so-called ‘marque’ port.
  • Why?  Because it is much lower cost than achoring offshore where their crew can’t come ashore; they can’t load local produce and passengers want to walk directly into our CBD.  First and foremost that’s what all their passengers want!
  • Anyway, the estimated costs for this mooted long jetty are huge.

Will dredging to widen and deepen the Trinity Inlet really be beneficial to me?

      YES.  Not only you, but almost all FNQ people and businesses.  Cummings Economics estimate benefits worth $5Bn over 25 years – that’s $5,000,000,000!


What are the options to complete this dredging project and enable these huge benefits?

  • The Ports North draft EIS proposed putting all the spoil from capital dredging into the inshore lagoon.  As noted above, Federal and State Government have ruled against this option.
  • The other option is to put the spoil on land.  The draft EIS assessed the 944 ha State-owned East Trinity property as the better option.  The area where the spoil would be placed was salt-pan, grasslands and a meleauka tree forest until it became severely degraded.  The forest was killed by saltwater inundation after CSIRO recommendation to use dredged spoil to cap the area resolving the acid problem was ignored.

I read that East Trinity should be restored to wetland?


This ‘restoration’ has been proposed for many years.  Fact is, this area never was wetlands. It is grassland and salt pan, like Portsmith before it was improved. 

There are so many views on the costs and benefits of this dredging, who can I believe?


Very good point!  Until a new independent assessment is completed, there isn’t enough credible information for ANYONE to form an objective view or make any related decision.

Is an independent assessment underway?


The initial ‘scoping survey’ is estimated to cost $50,000.  The full project resulting in a ‘shovel-ready’ plan would cost more – perhaps $250,000. Ports North have already spent $5,000,000 producing the 3,000 page draft EIS report.

OK, that all makes sense – what should I do now?


Contact your political representatives – Federal, State and Council – telling them what you expect them to do, ie expedite the dredging!