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Byron Shire
December 2, 2021

Tweed opposed to runway’s destruction of wetland

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The heavily-vegetated wetland area south of the airport at Coolangatta will be wiped out for a major expansion of the runway. Image Tweed Shire Council
The heavily-vegetated wetland area south of the airport at Coolangatta will be wiped out for a major expansion of the runway. Image Tweed Shire Council

Luis Feliu

Gold Coast Airport’s plan for a major expansion of its runway into NSW Crown land will have major ‘permanent and irreversible’ impacts on a huge swathe of endangered native vegetation, according to Tweed Shire Council.

The company behind the multi-million-dollar redevelopment of the terminal, apron and runway, has put a draft plan on public exhibition, but Tweed Council, in a late submission, has called for the 32 hectares of native vegetation to be retained, not destroyed.

In a report to be debated at council’s planning committee meeting tomorrow (Thursday), planning chief Vince Connell says that while Gold Coast Airport Pty Ltd’s plans will meet growing demand by tourists and domestic passengers, council has grave concerns for the large state-significant wetland area the runway is proposed to extend into.

Mr Connell says that despite the airport offering an offset planting strategy to make up for the loss of the 32.5 hectares, no details had been provided to date.

First-stage works are expected to start late next year.

He says there are also concerns about the acid-sulfate impact on surrounding surface and groundwater by the proposed draining of the area, resulting in a drop of the water table by around 2.3 metres.

And a proposed temporary construction road to the Pacific Highway could clash with traffic plans to facilitate major Tweed development on the opposite side of the highway, with a traffic-light intersection planed for that which the airport also wants to use when finished.

The federal government has previously given the green light to a master plan for the airport expansion.
Key aspects of the plan include: redevelopment of the existing terminal building; five additional aircraft parking stands with associated taxiways; site preparation, including drainage, earthworks and clearing of native vegetation; and thje uilding of the construction road to the highway.

Stage one, due to e completed by 2017, will include site preparation, vegetation clearing, drainage realignment, three new aircraft parking stands and terminal redevelopment.

Stage two, set to start in late 2020, will include an additional two aircraft parking stands and due for completion in early 2021.

In his report, Mr Connell said the plans for the Commonwealth-leased airport ‘will have significant, permanent and irreversible long term impact on endangered ecological communities and numerous threatened species of sState significance, being approximately 32.5 hectares of native vegetation’.

‘By the same token, the proposed redevelopment and expansion will increase the airport’s terminal and apron capacity to meet forecast busy hour demand to 20 23, and deliver faster and more efficient service for travellers, and more retail choice,’ he said.

‘In this regard it is noted that the airport is a major employer and economic driver for the broader NSW and QLD region,
and its wider potential is limited only by its capacity to meet growing and project demand.

‘Because the land in question is Commonwealth leased property, Council has no regulatory role.

‘However, the proposed Council submission to GCAPL recommends retention of this vegetation and notes that while an offset strategy is proposed, no details have been provided for consideration.

‘Potential acid sulfate soils occur on the site which will be impacted by the construction of a drainage channel resulting in a drop the level of the water table by up to 2.3 metres leading to the potential oxidation of these soils and result in long-term ongoing concerns for the quality of surface and groundwater.

‘While traffic matters have been discussed as they relate to a current planning proposal for the Border Park Raceway site, Council will most likely only have a concurrence role in assessment of any traffic generating development on land surrounding the proposed signalised intersection on the Pacific Highway,’ Mr Connell said.

Much of the area to be cleared he said was ‘of state significance, including 16 hectares of Swamp Sclerophyll Ecologically Endangered Community, significant areas of heathland and known habitat for threatened species.’



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  1. “offset planting strategy” !!

    Oh yeah, that’s great. Problem solved , , NOT…

    On the surface, it looks like little air traffic improvement, but a definite crosswind reduction options improvement.
    But compared to the MASSIVE ecological and aesthetics annihilation, this would be a highly regrettable upgrade.

    Another very sad addition to the corporate agenda.

    Will we need all these extra flights when fossil fuels and air tickets start costing the earth??

    By then, it will be too late to halt these greedy plans.

  2. Just goes to show, we have a Federal government with an Environment Department – do they ever talk??? Then again the Environment Minister is approving environmental destruction of many critical areas (Tarkines, Liverpool Plains, Great Barrier Reef, Leard State Forest etc etc ad nauseum). No wonder Australia has the world’s worst record for mammal extinctions – it’s our government giving the green light to developments which always supercede protection of native fauna and flora. Not going to be much left for our kids and grandkids ….


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