Is this the future of Moreton Bay marine park?
Members of the Sandstone Point Community only recently became aware of an enormous proposal by the Australian Seaweed Institute to construct a seaweed farm covering 66 hectares [163 acres] just offshore from Sandstone Point and in Deception Bay.
The area proposed is equivalent to 33 times the playing field of the Brisbane ‘Gabba’ cricket field. This initial project component of possibly larger ultimate development is awaiting approval by the Queensland government. The project consists of more than 900 posts installed in the sea bed and many kilometres of plastic lines strung over its 1.5 kilometre length and 440 metre width.
It is immediately adjacent to a Queensland government declared, totally protected “Green Zone”. This whole area is a habitat and feeding zone for marine turtles and dugongs which are already at risk and under severe stress. It is adjacent to one of Moreton Bays feeding grounds and roosting sites for migratory and indigenous seabirds. This area is part of Moreton Bay Ramsar wetlands – an international wetlands protection agreement signed by 170 nations including Australia.
On 16 October, a well-attended public meeting was hosted by the Sandstone Point Community Association to meet with the company to hear about what exactly is proposed and to voice their opinions and concerns. The seaweed to be grown will consist of only native Australian species which will be continually harvested and with the intention of being processed locally. The proponents are in the process of exploring interest in this multi-million dollar project from both local and international investors.
Below are the main concerns expressed by the local residents at the above meeting:
• The installation of 900 or more large and protruding posts with several kilometres of plastic ropes and other plastic infrastructure which may create an extensive visual impact on this Marine Park.
• The potential hazards to navigation and leisure activities and risks of entanglement and other impacts on marine turtles and dugongs.
• What will be the impact of all this plastic rope and other rubbish if it breaks free during storm events or high winds and washes up on our shore. Who will be responsible of cleaning this up?
• What arrangements will be in place to completely remove and dispose of this infrastructure if the project is abandoned for any reason in the future?
• Risk of Lyngbya contamination. This area already suffers from seasonal outbreaks of Lyngbya (Blue green algea). There are questions as to how this will effect and further compound this issue.
• The seaweed farm will shade the existing native seagrass seabed and result in the reduction of this important natural food source and habitats for marine creatures, including dugongs and turtles.
• This area is where a lot of fish is caught by both professional and amateur fishermen. Is this yet another area which will be closed to the fishermen with resulting loss of local jobs?
• Noise and potential disturbance from continual boat and truck traffic servicing the area.
• The current natural and undeveloped image of the marine environment is an important factor in why many choose to live here. The loss of amenity to local residents, fishers and local recreational boat traffic and damage to the natural image of the region which the project will produce will impact the desirability of this area and its property values.
We are concerned that the Queensland Government appears to be fast tracking the approval of the project which may have significant impact in the Moreton Bay Marine Park. The proposers and government have not consulted with the local community which is why our organisation stepped in and call this meeting. We were informed that the company had submitted an environment impact statement to the Queensland Government but we have been told that we can’t see this as it is ‘commercial in confidence’.
We call upon the Queensland government to immediately halt the approval process and follow proper and respectful process including consulting with the local community and other interest groups and individuals. We would also request the release of all impact assessments and risk analysis for our examination.