Collectively, the region’s three civil leaders, Member for Page Kevin Hogan, Member for Clarence Chris Gulpatis and Clarence Valley’s mayor, Richie Williamson, are of the opinion that the construction of a container ship port on the lower reaches of the Clarence River is a “pie in the sky” idea: however, most of the 160-plus people who packed the Iluka community hall weren’t prepared to let those leaders’ scepticism be their guide.
Australia Infrastructure Developments Pty Ltd is and has been lobbying the NSW and Australian governments to support the proposal, which is made up of five projects (including a rail link from Inverell to Yamba), for several years.
The primary project, the construction of a port on the Lower Clarence, is called ‘Eastgate’ – the proposal covers around 36 square kilometres.
The aid-australia website states the project will “transform [the Port of Yamba] from its limited domestic operational status into a globally significant ‘common-user’ shipping hub capable of accepting a wide-range of vessel types, ranging in size to include, but not limited to, Post Panamax and Cape Size vessels”.
Lock the Gate regional coordinator Ian Gaillard organised the gathering, in conjunction with Iluka’s Tony Belton and other like-minded people.
Mt Belton said he was wary of continued lobbying by the project’s public face, Des Euen.
“I and others think they’re ramping up their proposal,” he said.
“I thought it’s better to get in early and make a statement, rather than letting things progress too much, as far as the planning goes, [despite] a lot of talk about ‘pie in the sky’.”
Dr Matt Landos, a Ballina man, who is a director of Future Fisheries Veterinary Services Pty Ltd and an associate researcher at the Sydney University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science, made a PowerPoint presentation outlining his views regarding the environmental impacts associated with dredging and the development of the Port of Gladstone.
He has made detailed academic-style submissions to the Senate’s Environment and Communications References Committee Inquiry regarding the Great Barrier Reef and a submission, Investigation of the causes of aquatic animal health problems in the Gladstone harbour and near-shore waters, to the federal government’s Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone.
Mr Belton said Dr Landos pointed out, “for the sake of transparency”, that many of his findings were subsequently rejected by the Gladstone Port Authority.
“In his [Dr Landos] opinion, good science was rejected for expediency,” Mr Belton said.
Mr Belton posted on the No Yamba Mega Port Facebook page: “Dr Landos [made] a compelling presentation showing the utter destruction that was perpetrated upon the environment, people, communities and viable commercial and recreational fishing industries by the development of a massive port in Gladstone, Queensland.
“Graphic slides of ulcerated fish and crabs, dead fish, dugong, dolphins, turtles and decimated sea grass beds illustrated the horrendous damage that industrial scale dredging will create.
“Sedimentation, acid sulphate and heavy metals disturbed by dredging were the key contributing factors to the loss of water quality, sea grass beds and mangroves apart from direct removal.”
Meetings are planned for Yamba and other communities along the Clarence over the coming months.