Reef anger on the rise
HUNDREDS of Douglas Shire residents are expected to attend the Douglas Reef Rally this Sunday, February 23, in protest at the federal government’s decision to allow dumping of dredging waste on the Great Barrier Reef.
Organisers of the Douglas Reef Rally have put a call to arms out for everyone to join the protest, following the recent announcement of the approval of the dumping of 3 million cubic metres of spoil in the Reef at Abbot Point near Bowen.
This foreshadows the Cairns Shipping Development Project, which proposes to dredge 5 million cubic metres of mud to expand the shipping channel into Trinity Inlet. Questions have been raised as to where the dredge spoil will be dumped, onshore or offshore in the Marine Park.
Event MC Kevin Eldridge, who is also representing the Douglas Shire Sustainability Group, said despite the dredging being south of our region, the community needs to take a stand to protect the future of the Reef.
‘‘If you care about biodiversity and protecting one of the world’s most diverse and unique regions, if you benefit from coastal tourism, if you live in North Queensland, if you love visiting the region, or would like your children to see it one day, please help us spread the word,’’ he said.
‘‘Our reef is already suffering – destructive operations have already begun in Gladstone and Abbott Point and further operations planned for Townsville, Cairns, Trinity Inlet and north of Cooktown.
‘‘The peaceful protest on February 23 is the first step in getting the word out that the Douglas Shire community is dissatisfied.’’
Mr Eldridge said the protest is just as much about the future of the Reef as the economic future of the region.
‘‘Considering 90 per cent of all economic activity in the Douglas region is tourism dependent, residents and the local business community are understandably very concerned about the damaging impact that dumping dredge soil would have on the reef environment and our tourism industry,’’ he said.
‘‘Governments and big business placing short term economic profits over environmental protection is not sustainable. A balance is required and what commercial interest choose to ignore, is that without the environment there would be no economy.‘‘
The Douglas Reef Rally will start 11.30am on Sunday and will be an hour-long event starting at the Surf Club at the northern end of Four Mile Beach, where participants will spell out ‘‘SAVE THE REEF’’ in human letters before heading up Macrossan Street with a police escort and into Anzac Park on Wharf St. There, there will be entertainment by local musicians the Walker Brothers and Timber and Wood, along with guest speakers including Douglas Mayor Julia Leu.
‘‘ I am extremely concerned about the impact of the proposed Trinity Inlet massive increase in dredging right on our doorstep, adjacent to our Douglas coastline,’’ Mayor Leu said.
‘‘ Douglas Shire has always been where the ‘ Rainforest meets the Reef’ – any loss of World Heritage status due to damage of our iconic national landscape that everyone has worked so hard for could be devastating for our local and regional economy.’’
Representatives from the Environmental Defenders Office of North Queensland, the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre, and Douglas-based marine health non-profit Tangaroa Blue have also been confirmed as keynote speakers, with each speaking for five minutes to promote awareness and education.
Everyone is welcome to the Douglas Reef Rally and people are encouraged to wear green and blue, bring an umbrella in case of rain and print out or create their own placards.
Join the Facebook group for more i nformation and tag #SaveTheReef on social media. Anyone who would like to volunteer to act as marshals on the day or would like more information on the protest can contact Kevin Eldridge on firstname.lastname@example.org or join the Douglas Reef Rally Facebook page.
* There will be an estimated 20 minute disruption to traffic along Macrossan st on Sunday February 23, when the Douglas Reef Rally will progress with police escort from the Port Douglas Surf Club up Macrossan Street between 12.20pm and 12.40pm.
PROTECT THE REEF: Rosie Wang, Kevin Eldridge and Kim Hurley