Port Stakeholder Working Group – Toxic dust Update

Charlie McColl and Wendy Tubman represent NQCC on the Port Stakeholder Working Group (PSWG) formed following findings of high levels of heavy metals in urban spaces in proximity to the Townsville Port.

Overall, NQCC is pleased to report that the Port Stakeholders Working Group is functioning well.

Key reportings from the October 2015 meeting of the PSWG are:

1. Upgraded air quality monitoring equipment at the Coastguard site near the casino is now functioning. This equipment, operated by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, provides near-real-time data about air quality downwind of the port in a publicly accessible form. The latest readings show that whilst there is still a possibility of unexplained spikes in dust readings the actual content of the dust, especially lead and other potentially toxic metals, appears to be at the low end of the range at the present time. This is of course early days in the system and the equipment and there are still many unknowns but NQCC’s push to update the technology and broadcast the results is finally paying dividends.

2. The Port of Townsville has developed a new community communication strategy to improve knowledge about what the port does and how it interacts with the economy of the region. The Port is keen to present a “responsible neighbour” image and has adopted some new strategies to show how the port is mitigating dust emissions, reducing noise and odours (e.g.. when live cattle are being loaded), maintaining vegetated buffers and generally engaging with the local community to identify issues as soon as they arise. Community reps on the Working Group have provided positive feedback about these initiatives. A social media campaign is identifying a “Ship of the Week” each Friday to explain some of the activities in the Port.

3. A new part of the communication strategy will show up in selected letterboxes in early December. Two urban areas near the Port (in South Townsville and North Ward just back from the Strand) will be letterboxed with an invitation to join a monthly email newsletter group. The newsletter will extend the reach of the social media campaign right into those parts of the city most directly affected by the dust, noise and other issues. NQCC has asked that this particular part of the campaign be extended to Magnetic Island because of the regular detailed contact Islanders have with the port and the possibility of building an education campaign through them.

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