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Balancing Development And The Environment

Environment Education & academia +1 more

AUSTRALIA - A new plan for marine plants in Cairns will strike the right balance between development and the protection of marine plant habitats.

Fisheries Queensland and Cairns Regional Council have worked closely over the past three years to develop the Marine Plant Management Strategy for Cairns, which will give council the capacity to remove vegetation from flood prone areas while still protecting important marine habitats.

Speaking at today’s launch, Cairns Regional Council Mayor, Val Schier, said the strategy would help the state government and Council to better manage marine plant communities such as mangroves in waterways around Cairns.

"This comprehensive strategy is the first to be completed in Queensland with more to come on stream in Townsville and Brisbane," Mayor Schier said.

"It replaces the previous process where Council applied to Fisheries Queensland for individual approvals to remove marine plants and allow dredging of watercourses.

"Council has negotiated with Fisheries Queensland an approach that maps out exactly which mangrove communities will be affected by maintenance works, and which areas where no work will be undertaken.

"This approach will see the restoration of degraded marine plant communities to achieve long-term protection of fish habitats.

"At the same time, the strategy will meet community requirements for access and recreational use and ensure fish habitat resources under Council’s responsibility are managed in an ecological sustainable manner."

Fisheries Queensland managing director Jim Groves said local governments often found themselves walking a tightrope in balancing development and the protection of the environment.

"Cairns Regional Council should be applauded for developing this document as a way to achieve this balance," Mr Groves said.

"The management strategy provides for mangrove protection and restoration.

"At the same time, it will give Council the ability to target the removal of marine plants when required for flood mitigation purposes.

"Marine habitats such as mangroves and saltmarshes are nursery grounds for many species of reef and freshwater fish.

"The management and protection of fish habitats is important not just for the environment, but for our commercial and recreational fisheries.

"Disturbances of the habitat areas can disrupt the entire food chain and lead to a long-term decline in fish production and the general health of the environment."

Fisheries Queensland senior fisheries scientist Louise Johns said councils were under pressure from growing populations and the needs of the community to seek balanced development.

"For example, some areas in Cairns are vulnerable to flooding and some clearing is important to protect homes during the wet season," Ms Johns said.

"The Cairns Regional Council Marine Plant Management Strategy will help Council and Fisheries Queensland to best meet the needs of both the community and the environment."