Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance coordinator Ginny Gerlach on a catamaran during the trip around the region looking at areas where proposed coal and gas ports are planned.
Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance coordinator Ginny Gerlach on a catamaran during the trip around the region looking at areas where proposed coal and gas ports are planned. Daniel Burdon

Dolphin versus coal ports, CSG

SEEING a snub-nosed dolphin off the Central Queensland coast is a rare experience for anyone.

But it was an experience that more than 80 people shared on Saturday when the Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance (KAFDA) hired a catamaran to take a group out around the Keppel Islands and Fitzroy delta to see where proposed port developments would take place if approved.

The grassroots alliance, led by Ginny Gerlach and other locals passionate about the Capricorn Coast's boating and fishing lifestyle, left Rosslyn Bay on a Freedom Fast Cat at about 8.30am yesterday.

Sailing south through the waves, the catamaran slowed to pass one of Australia's most important flat-back turtle nesting sites at Peak Island, wound its way through the rest of the Keppel Islands, passing Balaclava Island and stopping for a brief interlude at Curtis Island off the coast of Gladstone.

Ginny said the tour was held to show locals who had never been out to the islands parts of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area that she believed were at risk of destruction with numerous port developments planned.

Among the proposed developments in the area were the Fitzroy Terminal, a barge and export project off Raglan Creek; the Balaclava Island Coal Export Terminal and two major liquefied natural gas plants on Curtis Island, which will see Central Queensland's coal seam gas turned into LNG before export overseas.

Ginny said there was a real risk that cumulative effects from the multiple projects would change the local marine environment forever, affecting both the regional hydrology and the local lifestyle so craved by boaties on the coast.

While many of the group on the tour were clearly against the proposed developments, others came along and voiced concerns not just for the environment but also whether the region's much-touted gas boom would actually have any real positive effects for the local economy.

But, despite differences of opinion among those present, there was no questioning the stunning power of the snub-nosed dolphin to attract a crowd, as it frolicked at the surface as onlookers waited for just one more chance to grab a photograph.

Capricorn Conservation Council coordinator Michael McCabe said one of the biggest questions that lay ahead for the reef, and the local area, would be whether it would be possible to find a balance between the economic and environmental interests at stake.

This week, both Mr McCabe and Ms Gerlach will be among those putting their case to a mission from the World Heritage Committee, coming to Gladstone this Wednesday to investigate concerns about these developments and other threats to the reef.



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