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 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’.