Eastern Curlew
Eastern Curlew

Anger as move to stop smell risks endangered bird habitat

GLADSTONE Port Corporation has responded to complaints made by Bundaberg Port residents relating to an odour coming from a "spoil pond".

The corporation was made aware of the issue after multiple complaints in December 2018, the area in question being constructed in 2004 and used for managing the relocation of dredge spoilage.

A spokesperson for the corporation said they had been working with the Department of Environment and Science since January this year to investigate the odour source.

Initial investigations showed the source of the odour was the natural decomposition of vegetative matter and "bird guano" following a drier-than-usual dry season and high evaporation rates.

The Department of Environment and Science outlined conditions to be followed by the corporation - to drain or dry out the area to manage potential future odour issues for the community.

A letter to the editor sent to the NewsMail talks of the draining of the area resulting in critically endangered bird species having their local feeding grounds taken away.

More than 200 species have been recorded over the past decade, two of which are critically endangered.

The letter said the birds migrated from remote locations around the world, including Russia, Siberia, Alaska and Northern China, before stopping in Bundaberg to feed.

Trevor Graham, who wrote the letter, said the birds' feeding grounds were at risk because "the people who manage the port have been told by government departments to prevent an occasional, temporary odour, an odour with no associated health issues".

Mr Graham said the birds travelled thousands of kilometres and would lose a vital resting and feeding area where they had sheltered in the past, a great opportunity for people from all over the world to watch and photograph specific rare birds. "Although I have lived in Bundaberg all my life, it is the only place I have ever seen red-necked avocet, a really remarkable bird I will always remember for its unique looks and its feeding style," Mr Graham said in his letter.

Mr Graham called on residents in the port area to consider the birds' plight, flying from very remote parts of the world only to have their local habitat taken away.

"Please, if you lodged a complaint consider withdrawing it," he wrote.

"Please, if you live or conduct business at the port, contact your local member or the environment minister and tell them you're willing to be tolerant for the birds.

"The reality is, we have a choice but the birds do not."

Speaking to the NewsMail yesterday, Mr Graham explained that he had been interested in bird life for a number of years, cutting out articles from the NewsMail when he was a child.

Minister for Science Leeanne Enoch agreed that it was important for shorebirds to be protected.

"In relation to the port, I understand the Department of Environment and Science investigated odour issues earlier this year and found that the odour was unlikely to have adversely affected migratory shorebirds, or shorebirds in general," Ms Enoch said.

The Gladstone Port Corporation intends to continue to use the spoil ponds for approved future requirements, while continuing to fund yearly migratory bird monitoring.

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