Today is emerging iron ore mining company Centrex Metals’ AGM in Adelaide, and a group of passionate defenders of Spencer Gulf’s marine life aren’t happy with the company’s decision to build their Port Spencer project at Lipson Cove, between the towns of Port Neill and Tumby Bay on Spencer Gulf’s eastern shore. They will gather outside the Crowne Plaza on Hindmarsh Square, led by documentary filmmaker and environmentalist, Dan Monceaux. Dan became known as the ‘cuttlefish protester’ after he interjected during Mike Rann’s final speech as Premier last year, offering him a cuttlefish pinata to whack. Today’s message is about making it known that Lipson Cove and Lipson Island are for penguins, not ports.
The proposed development, with its 140 hectare footprint is located just 1km to the north of Lipson Island, a conservation park established in 1967 for the protection of roosting shorebirds, including protected Fairy Terns and the iconic Little Penguin. The proposed port will facilitate the export of their product to China in Cape-sized ore carriers, which will dock at a wharf to be be built 1.4 kms from the island.
While Little Penguin populations have been in decline at most of the state’s colonies, Lipson Island’s population was believed to be stable in 2006. Despite producing preliminary studies at the port site since 2008, Centrex Metals are yet to count the current population of Little Penguins, and the island’s significance to migratory birds is unknown, due to the total seasonal bias of the environmental surveys (conducted on two consecutive days in May, 2011).
Despite recommendations from at least two State Government departments (Environment and Transport), the project was not put forward for Federal environmental approval, until we, as concerned citizens, brought the matter to the attention of Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke. This prompted a Federal EPBC Act referral from the company, who have now disclosed plans to build a desalination plant at the site, despite the total absence of any studies to suggest its impact will be acceptable. By attempting to avoid this Federal environmental approval, Centrex has demonstrated a reckless disregard for their environmental stewardship.
Multiple environmental concerns stem from this development, hanging principally on the inappropriate close proximity to Lipson Island, which is also an IUCN Category III ‘Natural Monument’. It is an acknowledged biodiversity hotspot, but regardless of this, Centrex have not conducted surveys near the island below the water line, nor in summer to determine to what extent.
“To propose such a development in close proximity to Lipson Island, and at a time when Little Penguins are being recommended for relisting as ‘Vulnerable’ in the State due to population declines at other colonies is completely irresponsible,” says Monceaux.
“Centrex have shown a reluctance to produce baseline data for the island, and without that, their potental impact cannot be forecast, and if approved, their actual impact cannot be measured. Had Centrex done their homework and investigated the Lipson Island Conservation Park, they would have realized that this could never be justified as the ‘best location’ for their mineral exports.”
Lipson Cove is also a popular camping, fishing and holiday destination and will feature in a new book entitled ‘Australia’s 101 Best Beaches‘ by Professor Andrew Short and Brad Farmer as one of only 14 chosen in South Australia.