MEDIA RELEASE ARCHIVE

 

Media Release (no embargo) 20 January 2002

 

Federal government to assess troubled Ningaloo resort proposal

The Federal government has stepped in to assess a proposal to build a large marina and resort near Coral Bay on the Ningaloo coral reef in the North West of Western Australia. The assessment will be conducted by “Environment Australia,” the agency that advises Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP, on matters of national environmental significance.

A 100-page submission was prepared by the “Save Ningaloo” campaign for the assessment process in consultation with experts on the area, including leading scientists, tour operators from Coral Bay and Exmouth, and underwater cinematographers.

  • Despite difficulties in accessing some of the relevant documentation, the public response to the call for input was enormous.
  • Submissions representing over 7000 people were received, many of which were individual letters.
  • The main issues raised in these submissions were:
    • 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.
  • Many submissions were received from overseas. The developer will now have to respond to the
    issues raised in the submissions before Dr. Kemp makes his decision.

Coordinator of the “Save Ningaloo” campaign, Mr. Dennis Beros, said, “The area where the development would be built is very rich in wildlife and supports many threatened and migratory species, including marine turtles, whale sharks, dugongs, humpback whales, birds and many species of dolphin.”

Dugong

Mr. Beros said that the overwhelming consensus of the expert team was that:

  • the developer’s report failed to provide more than the most rudimentary baseline data, reflecting the lack of research conducted in the area, a problem that is well-known in the scientific community.
  • the shortage of data makes it impossible to judge the likely effectiveness of management strategies (about which little detail was provided). However, the research undertaken for the Save Ningaloo submission indicates that even the most stringent management plans would not be sufficient.

“Not only was there a lack of information provided on threatened species, but some species that we know use the area were ignored. Very little scientific research has been conducted up there, however, given the best information we have from Australia and overseas, it is crystal clear that the impacts from a proposal of this type are simply not manageable. So before we start putting large marinas into this crucial part of the reef system, it’s common sense to exercise caution.”

“We also have a long list of other fundamental flaws and omissions in the developer’s report that we will be taking up with Environment Australia and Dr. Kemp.”

Mr. Beros also said “Anyone who visits the Coral Bay area, whether they are a tourist or a scientist,
can see that it is “bursting” with life. However, we know the ecosystem is extremely fragile and already showing signs of stress from existing development. A resort like the one proposed here would be disastrous.”

“We need to protect this unique place because if we do it will pay us back many times over and the rewards will be enduring,” Mr. Beros said.

The Save Ningaloo campaign is a partnership of the The Wilderness Society of WA, the Australian Marine Conservation Society of WA, the Conservation Council of WA and the Australian Wildlife Conservancy as well as thousands of individuals and groups in Australia and internationally.

For more information please visit our popular website at: www.saveningaloo.org

Contact: Mr. Dennis Beros, “Save Ningaloo” campaign coordinator, Ph: 9420 7209, 04399 38313

18 January 2002

Background information on how the Federal environmental assessment process was triggered by the resort proposal.

Although there is a state approvals process currently in train through the Environmental Protection Authority, a federal assessment has been triggered because the area that would be affected by the development supports many important threatened and migratory species and is considered to be of “national environmental significance.”

This assessment will be one of the first major tests of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999 (CTH).

The developer, Coral Coast Marina Development Pty Ltd, was required to prepare a detailed report describing environmental impacts and management strategies. As part of this process, public comment on the developer’s report was invited. Submissions were accepted until 11 January.

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