Complete Submission (380 kb pdf)
The proposal by Coral Coast Marina Development Pty Ltd (CCMD) to build
a large marina and resort near Coral Bay on the Ningaloo coral reef in
Western Australia triggered a federal environmental assessment under the
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999 (EPBC).
This is because the area that would be affected by the development supports
many important threatened and migratory species. It is likely also to
impact Commonwealth waters and is considered to be of "national environmental
significance." The Act is administered by "Environment Australia"
which advises the Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, The
Hon Dr David Kemp, MP. This assessment will be one of the first major
tests of the legislation.
would-be developer, CCMD, was asked to prepare a detailed Draft Public
Environment Report (PER) describing the resort's environmental impacts
and management strategies. As part of this process, public comment on
the PER was invited. Submissions were accepted until 11 January 2002.
The developer now has an opportunity to respond to the issues raised in
difficulties in accessing some of the relevant documentation, the public
response to the call for input was enormous. Submissions representing
over 7000 people (including over 1000 from overseas) were received, many
of which were individual letters. The main issues raised in these submissions
· concerns about the ecological fragility of the area;
· warnings that the wilderness appeal would be lost; and,
· a disinclination to travel to the area if the resort went ahead.
submission, from the "Save Ningaloo" campaign, drew on the expertise
of leading scientists, researchers and local tour operators from Coral
Bay and Exmouth. The guidelines issued to the proponent by Environment
Australia were carefully reviewed by the campaign as part of the analysis
of the PER. While many of the broad requirements are addressed, the all-important
detail is often missing. The weaknesses of the PER can be divided into
the following categories:
Failure to adhere to the guidelines and the regulations.
There are numerous deviations from the guidelines. "Feasible alternatives"
(Section 3) to the marina development, such as the option of "taking
no action" were not described. There was a failure to provide sufficient
detail on mitigation strategies, which meant that this fundamental requirement
was not assessable. Another major omission was a discussion of the proposal's
compliance with environmental sustainable development (ESD) principles
(Section 11). This submission includes a discussion of the key components
of an ESD assessment using nature-based tourism assets as the resource
Failure to provide sufficient data on the impacts of the resort, including
its likely oceanographic and hydrological effects, and the marina's internal
There was very little information provided on crucial elements of the
marina structure and dynamics, particularly sediment transport amounts,
origins and destinations, current speeds and directions, and groundwater.
There are also serious flaws in the modelling of currents in Batemans
Bay and within the marina. Geomorphologic issues have also not been addressed
adequately, which is of particular concern to species such as turtles
and birds which rely heavily on the beach and shallows.
· The absence of adequate baseline data and management strategies.
A primary function of the PER was to identify the full range of EPBC listed
species and communities that would be impacted by the proposal, including
those not listed in the guidelines. However, the PER fails to provide
any baseline data on listed species such as the spinner dolphin and the
Asiatic common tern, despite the fact that both are frequently seen in
the immediate vicinity of the proposed resort site. In many cases, the
PER relies on indefensible assumptions (in the absence of data) to justify
its claims that the proposal will not impact listed threatened, vulnerable
and migratory species.
the PER fails completely to acknowledge the potential of the area for
the populations of key listed species, some of which may have been substantially
reduced by previous interactions with humans and feral animals. At the
very least, this represents a crucial misunderstanding the ecology of
the area. For example, loggerhead turtle numbers have previously been
affected by hunting and predation, but with good management, their habitat
could be rehabilitated and previous numbers restored.
great concern is the limited information provided on impact-management
strategies, although given the lack of information on the ecology of the
area, this is not surprising. Some key threatening activities have not
been identified, let alone addressed. There is a pro forma approach to
the management strategies in the PER, despite the very different needs
of the species, with great reliance on practices such as public education,
maintaining records of boat impacts and management plans to be developed
in the future.
Failure to assess the ecological relationships between species and develop
impact mitigation strategies.
Fundamental to an assessment of the resort proposal should be a detailed
description of the key interactions between species, which is a reflection
of the ecological richness of the area. This submission attempts to provide
additional information on this crucial element, with a discussion of species
such as corals and sea grasses. For example, the proposal could have substantial
impacts on these systems, and subsequently on listed species such as whale
sharks and dugong as a consequence of "knock-on" effects. However,
there are many other interactions that should have been described and
for which management strategies should have been provided.
Many commitments made are highly contingent upon uncertain future actions
and therefore are not assessable.
Many of the commitments to undertake further biological survey work amount
to both an admission that data on ecological species is lacking and an
indictment of the PER, which was required to provide this data, particularly
for the assessment of management strategies. Furthermore, some of the
work would not be adequately completed by the construction timelines proposed
by the developer. We also understand that some of the key commitments
with government agencies are not legally enforceable and lack commercial
summary, this submission demonstrates that the PER:
· provides an inadequate description of the ecological values of
· understates the potential impacts of the proposal on matters
of national significance; and,
· does not provide strategies that could adequately mitigate impacts
on matters of national significance.
Complete Submission (380 kb pdf)