January 23rd 2008
City Pacific Director talks TOT at forum
"The government's decision through the Co-ordinator General is not appealable by the general public," was one of the most significant statements made last week, at a forum on the 3500 page Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Townsville Ocean Terminal (TOT), by Mr Peter Trathen, Project Leader and Director of City Pacific, the company developing the project.
The bypassing of the usual avenues for public recourse and legal challenge was the result of a Queensland Government decision, made two years ago by the then Treasurer and now Premier, Anna Bligh, to make the canal estate and luxury cruise terminal, a "significant project" and although an EIS was required it would only be at the Commonwealth level, under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) where public submissions could have teeth.
About 120 people attended the forum at Rydges Southbank which was organised by the Environmental Institute of Australia and New Zealand (EIANZ).
Mr Trathen's presentation covered a wide range of issues concerning the project which is being planned for the Future Development Area (FDA) known locally as the duck pond, on Townsville Port's western breakwater and seaward of Jupiter's casino.
A graphic indicating the TOT looking south
The project, which is expected to take three years to complete starting this September, includes: a dedicated cruise/military terminal and wharf to receive cruise ships with capability to provide a 100 meter exclusion zone for military vessels which, on the residential side would include a 3 metre high berm with a 3 metre high wall; reclamation of land for a residential and commercial development comprising approximately 700 single and multistorey dwellings; artificial waterways and marina facilities for general recreational vessels and visiting super-yachts; new foreshore public open space areas including a park to be established at the northern end of the development.
The State Government is backing the project with $15M towards the terminal which is considered to cost significantly more. The addition of the canal estate is therefore seen as a means by which the costs to the developers can be offset against the terminal's construction.
Magnetic Islanders will recall the engineering approach used at Nelly Bay where the basin was sealed off from the open sea and then drained of all water before excavation and land reclamation begins. The TOT approach will be similar with the material excavated from the sea floor being used for the creation of the land areas.
Dredging to keep the canal estate waters properly flushed will be conducted yearly.
One million cubic meters of rock will be used to lengthen and strengthen the outer breakwalls.
An aerial view of the TOT
A temporary bridge is planned to bring in the heavy material across Ross Creek where the Strand Begins near the start of Sir Leslie Theiss Drive.
Mr Trathen said that sampling showed no evidence of acid sulphate soils nor contaminants in the areas to be excavated.
The EIS had found, said Mr Trathen, that overall traffic movements from the area would only increase by 5 percent but noted that special event nights at the entertainment centre were already a problem.
According to consultants, Transpac, the public of Townsville was generally in favour of the development following a survey of 409 residents with 54% in favour, 21% opposed and 24%undecided. It was noted that the closer the residents lived to the development area the higher the level of opposition.
Another element of the EIS findings concerned the, recently (scientifically) described, snubfin dolphins which are listed as having a high conservation priority, are not thought to be common but are known to inhabit the area. The EIS had found that the dolphins were relatively shy of humans and easily displaced. Management and mitigation, according to Mr Tranthen, includes best practice construction including the removal of the development area's water prior to construction, workforce education for construction crews.
The EIS notes remediation processes including: rapid containment and cleaning up of accidental spills as well as plastic debris adjacent to the marine environment and written encouragement to staff and users of the development to do this as well as public education programs.
The EIS wasn't able to indicate if the dolphins would inhabit the future canals and waterways.
Mr Trathen admitted that seagrass would be impacted but that the seagrass in the TOT area was "sparse". A member of the audience, Ms Margaret Moorhouse, commented afterwards, that, dugongs, prefer sparse seagrass adding that world renowned dugong expert Dr Helene Marsh considered the dugong so heavily threatened that, "One single human-related death is too much" and that the EIS did not address that. Mr Trathen responded that he thought the report by C&R consultants in the EIS did address the issue.
Another questioner asked if the development was designed to withstand a tsunami of the size which occurred in the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day 2006. Mr Trathen wasn't able to answer the question directly due to the differences in the geography of the area but claimed the development was being built to EPA (Q100) requirements which incorporated climate change impacts. This matter was further queried by Greens' Mayoral candidate, Jenny Stirling, who claimed that International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) levels and requirements were already out of date.
Mr James McLellan from the North Queensland Conservation Council asked if the public (taxpayers) would be paying ultimately for the ongoing monitoring programme for dust and noise from the Port but Mr Tranthen said that these costs would be met by the residents of the new development through contributions to a community title scheme.
Another questioner asked what would happen if the costs blew out with the project. Mr Trathen said, "If there is a cost blow-out that's an obligation the developer takes on," but, when this was further challenged, Mr Trathen said, "If the development falls over it is the bank's responsibility"
Other questions concerned the possibility that future residents would band together to have the port closed due to the unacceptable noise and pollution it would cause but according to Mr Trathen that there are layers of protection including a port protection agreement and that anybody who buys property in the development would be advised beforehand.
Jenny Stirling noted that both BHP and Sunmetals had concerns over the placement of the residential estate so close by the port. Mr Trathen said that the issues had been considered and that the development was constrained by size, density and rules applied to it.
A resident of a Strand apartment, close to the creek, wanted to know where the trucks would wait for the temporary bridge to open over the three years of construction and expressed concerns that their building already shakes when buses go past. Mr Trathen said that the logistics needed to be managed by the contractors and that there was a holding area identified in that short section of the Strand but, in the event of a hold up, the trucks would be held on site. He was surprised at the vibration issue and said that this would have to be considered in the detailed application for the temporary bridge.
Readers interested in the project can investigate the EIS for themselves (here).
Submissions concerning the project can be made to the Coordinator-General. The final date for lodgement of submissions is 1 February 2008. Submissions can be sent to:
EIS Project Manager
Townsville Ocean Terminal Project
Major Projects Division
Department of Infrastructure and Planning
PO Box 15009 City East Qld 4002 Australia
Telephone:+61 7 3234 0518
Facsimile:+61 7 3225 8282
Interestingly, the next speaker visiting Townsville as a guest of the EIANZ will be Professor Ian Lowe on February 12. He will be speaking on the implications of development in tropical areas in times of climate change.
Story: George Hirst
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