GREAT BARRIER REEF
// Outlook Report 2014
Urban and industrial development within the coastal zone, and some activities associated with agriculture165, can also result in the exposure of potential acid sulphate soils. These soils are found along the Region’s coast in mangroves, saltmarshes, floodplains, swamps, wetlands, estuaries, and brackish or tidal lakes.166 When they are disturbed and exposed to air they produce sulphuric acid, often releasing toxic quantities of iron, arsenic, aluminium and heavy metals.167 Port development Activities associated with ports span jurisdictional boundaries, occurring on land, as well as in the Region. The land-based aspects of port development are assessed in this section. Those port activities undertaken directly in the Region are described and assessed in Section 5.5 and summarised in Section 6.6. Port development has been the major reason for coastal reclamation — infilling areas of ocean, wetlands or other water bodies — along the Great Barrier Reef coast. For example, 14 million cubic metres of dredge material has been disposed to the Fisherman’s Landing reclamation area in Gladstone Harbour as part of the development of Gladstone’s port facilities. The total area reclaimed within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area since its listing in 1981 is approximately eight square kilometres, based on a comparison of spatial information from the 1980s and best available data. The majority of this area is in the Gladstone region (approximately 5.5 square kilometres). Port development can also create artificial barriers to freshwater flow, such as bund walls and infrastructure in waterways. There is a small risk of atmospheric and aquatic pollution from coal dust in areas where coal is handled or open to wind erosion.168 Aquaculture Land-based aquaculture occurs in the catchment, principally for prawns, barramundi, redclaw and freshwater fishes.169,170 Aquaculture operations are located close to the coast in a number of areas in the southern half of the catchment, typically where there is access to good water supply. While over the last decade there has been little spatial expansion of land-based aquaculture adjacent to the Region, overall production has increased.169 Before 2010–11, prawn aquaculture experienced strong annual production increases; however production fell by 25 per cent in that year mainly due to cyclones.169 There has been limited marine-based aquaculture within the Region and no facilities are in operation at present. Island development Some of the Great Barrier Reef islands support residential areas and tourism resorts. Island developments can influence the Region’s environment, and island residents and tourists undertake activities in the Region. The principal residential islands are Palm Island and Magnetic Island, with populations of about 2400 and 2200 respectively.171 There are tourism resort developments on 27 Great Barrier Reef islands, including Lady Elliot Island, a Commonwealth island within the Region. Resort islands are located along the length of the Reef, with most in the Whitsundays (for example on Hamilton, Hayman, Lindeman, South Molle and Long islands). Over the last decade, many island resorts have felt the effects of the economic downturn and extreme weather events, and some have stopped operating for a period. For example, the resort on Dunk Island remains closed after cyclone Yasi in 2011. Most island resorts have infrastructure extending into the Region including jetties, marinas, sewage outfall pipes, inlet pipes and cables — some of these are in poor condition or nearing the end of their working life. There are current proposals to redevelop some, for example replacement of the jetty at Orpheus Island. A major redevelopment of Great Keppel Island resort was approved in 2013, including a hotel, villas, apartments, a golf course, a marina, plus services and facilities, including underwater power, water and communication. There is also a current proposal to redevelop Hook Island resort which is currently closed.