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Saving Great Sandy Strait

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Great Sandy Strait is already listed as a Ramsar Wetland of International Significance, but along with Cooloola, it is has been nominated for inclusion on Australia’s National Heritage list as well as the World Heritage Tentative List.  Great Sandy Strait and its natural integrity are vitally important to Fraser Island.  There is now a groundswell of public concern over the future of Great Sandy Strait if the proposed Colton coal mine proceeds, as it currently has approval to do.  

The Hypothesis:  There is little doubt in the minds of those locals familiar with Great Sandy Strait that it will be adversely impacted by the proposed discharge of 946 megalitres of untreated water from the Colton coal mine annually.  Although the proposed mine is 30 kms from K’gari’s western shores, the damage to the Great Sandy Strait Ramsar site will most likely result from the heavy metals leached from the groundwater immediately surrounding it that have to be discharged from the 50 metre deep, open cut pit to allow mining to proceed.  The part of the Strait that is most likely to be most affected is where the discharge water is trapped – where the two incoming tides meet this outward flow of contaminated river water.  Because Great Sandy Strait has two openings, the tides flow down from Hervey Bay in the north and from Inskip Point in the south.  Where they meet, is the main point of precipitation of sediments and other pollutants.GSS_Tides

Actions required:  To get any government action and to cause the Colton coal mine to become a “controlled action” under the EPBC act requires hard data to test the above hypothesis and provide real evidence to back it up.  Without such data, the Commonwealth Government are unable to condition the proponents under the EPBC Act.  That is why FIDO, in collaboration with the Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee and the Greater Mary Association have established a $25,000 (and growing) Great Sandy Strait Research Fund to provide the evidence to support their case for Canberra to review their earlier decisions to let the proposed Colton coal mine pass without restrictions.

Researchers:  FIDO and its collaborators who established the GSS Research Fund have also established a Research Oversight Committee which is now inviting applications from students and or tutors either individually or as teams to submit bids to fund projects that will address the critical issues where data is needed.   The Research Oversight Committee (ROC) is keen to encourage as much participation from the Fraser and Sunshine Coasts as possible because Great Sandy Strait is one of the greatest natural treasures of the region.

Applications to fund projects:  The Research Oversight Committee will consider bids on what they deem give the best bang for their buck. The criteria include:

  1. Timing:  Projects need to be completed no later than 1st June 2019.  Projects that can be concluded earlier will be considered favourably.
  2. Capability:  The experience of individuals and collaborators to complete the projects submitted
  3. Availability of funds: Projects can only be funded if resources are available. Early applications are advised.
  4. Proximity: Preference will be given to applicants close to the impact area

Proposals should be submitted by email to admin@mrccc.org.au  There is no closing date; so as long as funds are available applications will be considered.   It is hoped to begin the allocation of funding in March 2018.

Article contributed by John Sinclair AO, FIDO

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