Coal, Our Reef and Our Future


NQCC is please to present an expert forum on ‘Coal, our Reef and Our Future’ on Wednesday 1 August at the Old Courthouse (Full Throttle Theatre), cnr Sturt and Stokes streets in the city.

The forum will focus on the impact of the coal boom on the Great Barrier Reef, our communities and our local businesses – and what you can do about it. There will be feature addresses from Jon Brodie (JCU), Erland Howden (Greenpeace) and Mark Ogge (The Australia Institute), after which there will be a Q&A session and opportunities to get further involved with this crucial issue.

The forum will run from 7.3opm to 9.30pm. It is free and all are warmly welcome and encouraged to come along.

Bar Open!


In case you were wondering, NQCC has not been  a ‘shrinking violet’ when it comes to the proposal to dump contaminated waters from the tailing dams at Clive Pamler’s Yabulu nickel refinery into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Below are two media releases put out by the organisation last week. Last Sunday, NQCC Coordinator Wendy Tubman and Management Committee member Gerald Soworka met with and questioned the new Minister for the Environment, Andrew Powell, about the issue. And they are continuing to take legal advice on the issue.


29 June 2012

North Queensland Conservation Council today slammed the proposal by Queensland Nickel that it be allowed to dump water from its tailing ponds in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

“If, as alleged, water levels in the ponds are ‘dangerously high’, the ponds ‘at risk of catastrophic failure’ and the situation has ‘developed over several years’, management at the site must be nothing short of appalling” said NQCC Coordinator, Wendy Tubman. “And this from acompany that claims to deliver real environmental benefits to the surrounding community with a water treatment plant that ‘eliminated the risk of discharge from overflowing tailings ponds into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.’”

“It reflects very clearly the attitude of Queensland Nickel owner Clive Palmer, that he is asking to dump massive quantities of contaminated water in the Marine Mark not only in contravention of his own claims but also at the same time as UNESCO is warning that unless water quality improves by next February, the whole Great Barrier Reef World Heritage are may be listed as ‘In Danger’. To me, that is just plain arrogant”, Tubman said.

“When potentially damaging activities are considered, the long-term environmental record of the applicant is also considered. Mr Palmer, with his applications for extensive mining plans currently being assessed, may wish to keep that in mind when making outrageous requests such as thisfor his nickel processing activities at Yabulu.”

NQCC today sought legal advice on preventing the dumping of the and wrote to both the State and Federal Ministers for the Environment.


29 June 2012

North Queensland Conservation Council today called on the State and Federal governments to back their promises to stop Clive Palmer dumping contaminated water from his Yabulu nickel refinery into the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) with decisive action.

“This week, the World Heritage Committee meeting in St Petersburg, acknowledged ‘major long-term impacts on the property from poor water quality’ and said it would consider declaring the Area “World Heritage in Danger’ unless substantial progress is made in relation to its state of conservation by February next year. In the light of this, it is unbelievable that people such as Palmer are even asking to dump massive amounts of contaminated water into the World Heritage Area.

“The State Development Approval for the Yabulu Extension sets down clearly the capacity of the tailing dams. Any decent manager would have kept an eye on the levels of the dams, the output of waste water and the weather – and planned appropriately. This appears not have happened.

“We acknowledge that, when the plan to extend Yabulu was approved, the company was permitted to discharge contaminated tailings into the ocean if they were at capacity, but only under ‘extreme climatic conditions’” Coordinator of NQCC Wendy Tubman said.

“In 2003, this condition was changed. One interpretation of the ambiguous 2003 conditions, still current today, is that the company is allowed to discharge into the ocean if the tailing dam is so full that a one in one hundred year wind would result in waves of contaminated water overflowing the dam. Such a condition simply encourages the environmentally irresponsible practice of allowing the damn to fill close to the brim, so that release into the GBRWHA is ‘necessary’.

“There are avenues by which the Federal and the State government could autonomously change the conditions and require QNI to increase its capacity to hold tailings or ensure that all water is treated before release into the ocean, and we expect them to address such options.

“At the very least, the State needs to immediately undertake a site inspection and undertake its own analysis of the tailings.

“It is very pleasing to see the Deputy Premier support the environment and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area so strongly. But it is an eye opener for everyone when a so-called ‘national treasure’ says that children will die if the tailing dams fail, but does nothing to stop adding to the dams.”

The Environment and the Election forum

Despite distinctly inclement weather, over 50 people attended NQQC’s The Election and the Environment Forum at Townsville Yacht Club on Thursday 15 March.

Undaunted by the rain (and by the fact that it was the Ides of March!) candidates from all five parties contesting the seat of Townsville or (in the case of Katter’s Australia Party candidate David Moyle) the seat of Mundingburra came along to have a three minute platform from which to present their environmental credentials and policies – and then to face a barrage of questions from the audience.

Taking their places at the top table and fielding the questions were Mandy Johnstone (ALP), David Moyle (KAP), John Hathaway (LNP), Jenny Stirling (Greens) and Michael Punshon (Family First).

And once the presentations were over, the questions came thick and fast and covered a range of topics – uranium, biodiversity, access to National Parks, endangered species (including turtles, dugongs and black-throated finches), coastal development, invasive species, water quality, fishing, renewable energy and population. But the overwhelming issues of the night were coal and coal-seam gas.

Not surprisingly, it was only Greens candidate Jenny Stirling who took a strong stance against the mining and export of coal. Other candidates addressed the issue by talking largely about the need for ‘balance’ between environmental and economic/community issues – a word that appears to be taking over from ‘sustainable’ and ‘offsets’ when it comes to accepting damage to our environment. (While Jenny Stirling also acknowledged a need for balance, it is possible that she is using scales with a different calibration). Expansion of coal seam gas was not strongly supported by any of the minor parties, a position not reflected by either Mandy Johnstone or John Hathaway.

On the issue of National Parks, John Hathaway commented that it was easy to create new NPs but such popular actions needed to be accompanied by increases in rangers to look after them. He also noted that some NPs (according to a member of the audience, only three in the State) were surrounded by private land and could not be accessed by members of the public. However, he did not elaborate on whether the LNP would resolve this perceived dilemma by buying up private land to create access or closing down the NPs in question.

In an intense but controlled night, it was the comment that we seemed to be ruled not by politicians but by mining executives that drew spontaneous applause.

All five candidates were invited to attend the launch of Big Solar on Sunday 18 March – and four accepted the invitation (the fifth having a prior engagement). One task for the Big Solar campaigners will be to explain to our politicians that Big Solar is not lots of solar panels on residential houses – but a new approach to generating megapower for the grid. Something entirely possible in the Townsville region.

At the end of the night, it could probably have been concluded that the main group to have learned about the environment and its parlous state were the politicians  – a not entirely bad outcome.

Wendy Tubman, Coordinator



‘The Environment and the Election’ forum – Thursday 15 March

Now here’s an important date for your diary!

Candidates for the State seat of Townsville will present their views and answer questions about the environment at ‘The Environment and the Election’ forum to be held at the Townsville Yacht Club at 6pm on Thursday 15 March.

The forum, organised by North Queensland Conservation Council, will give members of the public the chance to compare the environmental policies of the parties, as briefly presented by the candidates, and to ask questions during the Q&A session – which will take up most of the forum.

In announcing the forum, NQCC Coordinator Wendy Tubman said “We are aware that there is a lot of community interest and concern about the local and broader environment and how State government policy will affect it.

Whether it’s solar power and renewable energy, protection of the reef, coastal development, the future of coal seam gas in the area or something else again, the forum will provide the opportunity to ask specific questions about specific environmental issues that are influenced by the State government.”

The forum is free of charge and open to all.

Look forward to seeing you there!

North Queensland and Mackay Conservation Councils slam dredging plans

North Queensland Conservation Council and Mackay Conservation Council today joined a coalition of representatives from the fishing and tourism industries, reef scientists and the Australian Greens in voicing extreme alarm about the impact of massive dredging planned for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the marine environment in general.

“Most people would reasonably assume that if the government establishes a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and then campaigns internationally to have the Reef recognised as a property with World Heritage values, they are serious about protecting something of immeasurable wealth”, said NQCC Coordinator Wendy Tubman. “But, instead, we see a government so absorbed in creating quick money by exploiting the country’s mineral resources, that they are prepared to destroy an irreplaceable living wonder for ever.”

“It is a scandalous mis-use of power” she said, “and one that will not help them when the people get to decide on their legacy. Millions of thinking Australians understand that the pursuit of wealth must have limits – and destruction of our reef and marine environment is way beyond those limits.”

“The permanent loss of species and of the vast and magnificent reef does not bear thinking about. Yet, at the moment, we see a handful of politicians, backed by a phalanx of mining executives, stealing the heritage of the people of the world in order to expand ports and export Australia’s natural resources. It’s outrageous and must be stopped.”

Contact: Wendy Tubman, NQCC (ph) 4771 6226 (mob) 0451 176 761