Of all the places that the Rainbow Warrior has visited so far on its Save the Reef tour, we’ve been most moved and captivated by Abbot Point and the Caley Valley Wetlands.
To read the formal environmental assessments of the place, you would think that all of the beauty and diversity of the World Heritage Area dwells beyond the port boundaries, and that Abbot Point itself is an island of barren ordinariness... Nothing could be further from the truth.
Of the nine new coal terminals proposed for the Great Barrier Reef coast, four are earmarked for Abbot Point. There is a coal terminal already there and as we sailed by on our way to Bowen from Townsville, there were four ships at anchor waiting to access the terminal. Our minds turned to how many there would be if the capacity of the port were increased four-fold, as is proposed by the coal industry.
If that should come to pass, the first place damaged will be the Caley Valley wetlands. This is a beautiful place, alive with extraordinary bird life – some of which are already endangered – bounded by swamp gums and paperbarks, its waterways provide a carpet of lilac waterlilies and a home of dragon flies and tiny honey eaters.
This is the place Hancock Coal wants to turn into a rail loop for their new coal terminal.
The rugged Mount Luce looms above the Caley Valley Wetlands, covering 5000 hectares and hosting migratory shore birds that travel here from China, Japan and Korea. Coal industry assertions that this wetland is not significant for migratory birds have been exposed as false by recent surveys that found more species there than ever before, including a nationally important population of the threatened Australian Painted snipe
Then there’s Abbot Point itself. Large new infrastructure for Adani’s proposed “Terminal 0” will be constructed metres from Abbot Beach. This is a beach where Green and Flatback turtles lay their eggs and which was described as “important nesting habitat” by a turtle study conducted in 2003. The Australian snubfin dolphin, described by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority as “the Reef’s most threatened marine mammal,” also lives here, as do dugongs and migrating whales.
This is not a place where industrial development should take place. This is a place that needs to be valued and nurtured for its beauty and the unique story it tells all of us about this country. Queenslanders and the people of Bowen have already copped more than their fair share of extreme weather and hard knocks, it’s time for the Environment Minister to draw a line in the sand and say, enough is enough. It is also high time the people of regional and rural Queensland had some support, as they struggle to build lives and jobs that are built to last and last a lot longer than this dangerous and fickle coal boom.