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December 9, 2021

Wetland to be bulldozed ‘for extra airport shops’

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NSW Greens planning spokesman David Shoebridge inspected the proposed airport runaway extension site at Tweed Heads yesterday with Tweed mayor Katie Milne, Greens federal (Richmond) candidate Dawn Walker (left) and longtime opponent of the expansion, Lindy Smith. Photo supplied
NSW Greens planning spokesman David Shoebridge inspected the proposed airport runaway extension site at Tweed Heads yesterday with Tweed mayor Katie Milne, Greens federal (Richmond) candidate Dawn Walker (left) and longtime opponent of the expansion, Lindy Smith. Photo supplied

Luis Feliu

The planned bulldozing of a protected wetland on the NSW side of the border south of Gold Coast Airport is all about providing a few extra retail choices for air travellers, according to the NSW Greens.

The airport’s controversial expansion plan, which will see its runway extended onto crown land at Tweed Heads, has come under attack also from Tweed Shire Council which put in a late submission on the development recently.

Yesterday, NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge joined Tweed mayor Katie Milne and the Greens federal candidate for Richmond, Dawn Walker, on an inspection of the proposed expansion site at Coolangatta and Tweed Heads.

They would like to see the three levels of government co-operate ‘to protect the Tweed from the ecological and social damage that will be caused if the Gold Coast airport expansion plans are approved’.

The heavily-vegetated 32 hectares of wetland, which for years has been leased to the Tweed Heads Pony Club, will be wiped out for the runway expansion.

Tweed council says the development would have major ‘permanent and irreversible’ impacts on a huge swathe of endangered native vegetation and wants the area retained and not destroyed.

Mr Shoebridge said a large part of the airport’s expansion plan was to accommodate extra retail outlets.

‘This is all about priorities… no government should approve clearing critically important wetland just to deliver a few extra retail choices for air travellers,’ he said.

‘There is clearly scope for additional apron and terminal capacity to the north and west of the existing terminal, however the airport has clearly decided the cheapest option is to simply bulldoze the protected wetland to the south.

‘This is simply unacceptable, and every level of government should be telling them so,’ Mr Shoebridge said.

Ms Walker said the proposal was ‘a real test for the new Turnbull government’ as the Commonwealth has primary responsibility over it.

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

‘The people of the Tweed love their local environment and expect their elected representatives to stand up and protect it,’ she said.

‘That’s exactly what we are all doing, and working together with the community, gives our precious environment the best chance.’

Tweed shire’s planning chief Vince Connell says that while Gold Coast Airport Pty Ltd’s plans would meet growing demand by tourists and domestic passengers, council had ‘grave concerns’ for the large state-significant wetland area.

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.

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 state significance, being approximately 32.5 hectares of native vegetation’.

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  1. We should all oppose such opulent and unnecessary over-development.

    It’s the Gold Coast, not JFK airport.
    Part of the attraction is that it’s a small footprint, and serves us all very nicely.

    Glutinous capitalists must not be allowed to kill the pristine and vital habitat of the beautiful wetlands.

    Councils would do well to promote kayaking, instead of shop til ya drop mentality.

  2. This “development” is all part of progress, needed to cater for more people travelling. This issue exposes the Greens and their hypocritical inconsistency with regards to population. They have no population policy except “growth”, just like the mainstream political parties. They opposed land clearing and environmental destruction, but this is due to human activities, and the more people there are, the more they will need to cater for their travel.

  3. I find it so upsetting to read of yet again another habitat for the wild being destroyed – or even thinking of destroying it. Humans have taken over too much – it’s time to stop and to have some compassion and respect for the needs of non-human life on earth. If we don’t learn this lesson before it’s too late, we’ll find out why it was an important lesson as our bio-systems are destroyed to the point where they will not support life on earth – at least human life . . . yes – it will come back and bite us in the proverbial.

    And for what???? so another overstuffed woman can gather a handbag that she neither needs or wants????? This is a definition of insanity if ever there was one.

  4. Humans are driving so many species into the extinction abyss! Extinction is forever, not an unfortunate event. You can’t just “offset” the area, and assume the vegetation will just replicate itself, and all the ecological functions will follow? People will eventually make demands on any “vacant” land while our economy is based on generic Capitalistic “growth”. Australia is leading the way on extinctions, especially mammals,and more land clearing will bring us closer to an extinction crisis. The days of “expansions” are over, and we need to expand natural vegetation protection, not airports!

  5. I’m delighted Mr Shoebridge is opposing this development and I hope that the government supports his position and opposes this too. This is literally my backyard. I would like to see smarter choices, more sustainable choices being made. Please don’t destroy valuable and already dwindling habitat and wetlands, we need these places for obvious reasons. What we don’t need is more consumerism/greed and shopping, tourists can get what they need from the existing centres. Please use common sense.


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