Cairns Esplanade mudflats:
Richard Nowotny asks about the threat against, and possible action to
ensure retention of, part of this estuarine habitat. The current position
Cairns BOCA, almost on its own and lacking significant support from either
RAOU and AWSG, has been active for nearly two years in trying to have these
mudflats from being destroyed.
We have a multi-pronged campaign plan, consisting of peruasion and
education of local people, tourists, Cairns City Council, Cairns Port
Authority and Queensland State Government; funding of an educational
structure; and occasional direct attack on the Mayor and City Council.
Probably half of any western civilation population doesn't care about the
environment and the people of Cairns are no exception. They dislike
estuarine mud and don't care if half of us like it or not. The majority of
people aspiring to councils are of this persuasion. In Cairns, for most of
this century, nearly all City Councils have tried to fill the mudflats in.
And they are slowly succeeding. But at least two grandiose plans to get rid
of the entire flats by fill or flood, backed by the council of the day,
have been thwarted by the local people. A strong local conservation group
wants the mangroves to be allowed to grow back again right along the front.
It can be seen that the public opinion situation is a little complicated,
but we worry away at other points of view and hope we can wear them down to
agreeing with us.
Because these flats are "owned" by the Cairns Port Authority (State
legislation), and have been weeded of mangroves every year for over 100
years, they cannot be protected by any normal conservation measures.
One of our plans is to have them declared a Ramsar site on two grounds. One
is as a public education facility; the other, which we pushed very hard,
was on the basis of over 1000 Whimbrels overwintering here.
Unfortunately, everyone else, across the State, has their own agenda for
Ramsar sites. Our case never even got past the State Government departments
in Brisbane to the Ramsar coference there last year. And until our proposal
has hefty outside-the-State support from the RAOU and the AWSG it will
remain in the pigeonhole behind the Moreton Bay and Gulf of Carpentaria
Successive Queensland Governments, including the past Labour one, are
powerfully lobbied by Cairns Port Authority and City Council to be allowed
to "develop" these mudflats and by law, the Port Authority can do what it
likes to them. We have tried to counter this influence by our own lobbying.
The latest is this.The local federal member for Leichardt, Warren Ench, has
written to the Federal Minister of the Environment, who has in turn written
to the Queensland Minister of the Environment, Brian Littleproud,
emphasising the importance of the mudflats, and asking him to consider
So we are working from the top as well as the bottom, where we continually
ask tourists to write to the Mayor and the local paper. We regard the paper
to hold a position to the right of Gengis Khan, but they do often publish
these letters; one appeard today.
The Mayor and his Council are well aware of the situation. Shortly after
their attaining office, we invited the Mayor and the councillor from the
Esplanade area, to front up to three TV news crews and the local paper, on
the Esplanade, to have explained to them and all news watchers and readers,
the importance of the high mud along the Esplanade wall.
The publicity was excellent. The elected officials listened attentively.
The Mayor acknowledged
the importance of the mudflats for wildlife and as a wildlife-watching
area. He said that it was ideal for marrying the rainforest and the reef
"But if the Council wants to fill it in for street widening, you'll be
the first to know".
Since then, he has announced that the Council wants a 30-40 metre strip
right along the wall, and most of the S.E. corner. For street widening and
more parkland for tourists, and a swimming pool and artificial beach for
the locals. We are hoping he will be voted out next election, but it might
be too late.
In conclusion we ask, that if you write, write to the RAOU and AWSG in
particular, and to BOCA and QOS, to put pressure from on high to the
Queensland State Government. We locals can handle local pressure points but
we need extra pressure from the Brisbane area and from national bodies,
based further south. From listing as a Ramsar site (not enough in itself to
save it), we hope to have the State Government conserve the "Esplanade mud"
with special legislation. The State Government is the key.
As one international birder was told by a city councillor,
"These mudflats would have been filled long ago, if it wasn't for you bird