Industrial development decisions around Spencer Gulf have been made in recent years with reckless disregard for the welfare of South Australia’s marine life. Since researching and engaging with these issues full-time since mid-2011, we have tried conventional channels of communication, and have to date found the State, its agencies and the private sector largely unhelpful in tending to our questions and assertions. In response to this, we are organizing two peaceful protest events in November to draw attention to two areas of primary concern. Both protests will occur in Adelaide, the first during the daytime on November 22nd, and the second on the following evening, November 23rd.
Penguins, Not Ports! – Protest Port Spencer’s threat to Lipson Island biodiversity hotspot
Centrex Metals’ AGM, Hindmarsh Square, Adelaide
This protest is a response to Centrex Metals’ persistence with plans to develop the bulk-commodities export facility Port Spencer between the beaches of Lipson Cove and Rogers Beach on Eyre Peninula. The port, if allowed to proceed, will be built on former agricultural land, in a region which currently has no industrial activity of any kind. The development intends to construct a 515m long jetty with a conveyor system to service Cape-sized vessels from China (up to 200,000 tonnes). It will load these vessels 1.4 kilometres north of Lipson Island, a conservation park established in 1967 for the preservation of critical marine bird breeding habitat. It is acknowledged internationally as an IUCN listed Category III ‘natural monument’. If plans are allowed to proceed at this location, the 1 hectare island will have a new neighbour with a 140 hectare industrial footprint, including a 5-20 GL desalination plant which will return brine to Spencer Gulf. The product water will allow Centrex Metals and Eyre Iron to move their iron ore in slurry pipelines to the port site from prospective Eyre Peninsula mine sites. The port may also export grain as a secondary product.
In terms of conservation values, Lipson Island may be of critical importance- though to date Centrex Metals biological surveys have been seasonally biased and data deficient. Two consecutive days of surveys in May 2011 did not adequately determine the current population of Little Penguins residing there. In 2006 the colony was known to be stable at around 100 Little Penguins, but Centrex’s own burrow activity observations suggest there could now be up to approximately 150 Little Penguins calling Lipson Island home. If this shown to be the case, it bucks the trend in the species statewide, which has seen siginifcant declines at most other breeding sites. In 2011, a recommendation was made to reconsider the Little Penguin’s status and list the species as ‘vulnerable’ in South Australia.
Lipson Island and Lipson Cove aren’t just home to penguins though. The endangered (in SA) Fairy Tern is recorded there, as are Eastern Osprey and White-bellied Sea Eagles. Large populations of Black-Faced Cormorants, Crested Terns, Sooty Terns and a few Silver gulls and Rock Pidgeons also call the island home. We don’t know what lives in the intertidal zone there, or beneath the water, as Centrex Metals chose not to survey it. Similarly its importance to migratory species visiting in the summer is unknown. We do know that endangered Australian Sealions, various dolphins and Southern Right Whales visit the cove- along with many low-impact tourists who enjoy camping, fishing and bird-watching activities at this remote Eyre Peninsula jewel. The Atlas of Living Australia also shows records of 9 other birds species of rare or near threatened status within a 5km radius of the proposed port site, and 92 bird species in total.
For the purposes of selecting their site, Centrex Metals surveyed the ocean floor for 7 kilometres north of Lipson Cove. The company however, remains adamant that there are no viable alternative project locations. This is a distortion of the truth- and had the company not already purchased the land adjacent to Lipson Cove several years ago, perhaps they would be humming a different tune. Our protest intends to remind Centrex Metals’ board members and shareholders that even in Adelaide their is resistance to their inappropriate choice of location. We will be there to say that there ARE alternatives, and that risks to the biodiversity hotspot which is Lipson Island are unnecessary and entirely unacceptable.
Cuttlefish Crisis! – Protest the Government’s sacrifice of a species
SA Tourism Awards, Adelaide Convention Centre, North Terrace
6 – 7 pm
It may seem a little odd that we are staging this protest outside the South Australian Tourism Awards annual GALA celebration. We believe this is the perfect occasion to draw attention to the killing of cuttlefish eco-tourism in Upper Spencer Gulf, by the State’s failure to respond to early warning signs that the Northern Spencer Gulf population was heading towards collapse (as featured in the State’s Strategic Plan since at least 2009).
This event will be attended by Gail Gago, Minister for Fisheries and Tourism, who recently announced that she would afford these animals no further protection under the Fisheries Act. It is our belief that increasing protection for these animals would raise an important red flag in the public consciousness, and stop recreational fishers from taking the animals outside of the closure areas to use as bait for snapper fishing. A study was commissioned in the early 2000’s which demonstrated that cuttlefish eco-tourism could have been developed into a flourishing multi-million dollar industry, but again, inaction on this front has squandered a viable economic opportunity. Developing ecotourism could have served the town of Whyalla well in mitigating the risks of maintaining a society dependent on mining and steel-making industries. We believe it still could, provided steps are taken to aid the cuttlefish’s recovery, including the relocation of current industrial proposals away from Point Lowly to less environmentally sensitive areas.
This event presents an opportunity to remind Minister Gago that the State has allowed the onset of what could well be a looming South Australian extinction event and the death of an internationally celebrated marine natural wonder. We hold this minister doubly responsible, as she also held the portfolio of Environment during the decision-making process which lead to the approval of the Point Lowly site for BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam desalination plant. The cuttlefish deserve to be treated with respect and celebrated as an iconic species, not sacrificed at the whim of industrial proponents for the sake of economic development.
We hope you feel as we do, and will join us on November 22 and 23 to be a voice for South Australia’s wonderful marine life.