9 Jan 2015


An internal Federal Government email contains expert opinion that dumping dredge spoil on the Caley Valley wetlands at Abbot Point is likely to lead to the decline of the endangered Australian painted snipe bird.

The October 2014 email, released to WWF-Australia under Freedom Of Information (FOI) , is from the protected species branch in the Federal Environment Department to assessment officers in the same department.

It gives advice on the Queensland Government’s proposal to dump dredge spoil on the Caley Valley wetlands and says the most significant impact would be on the Australian painted snipe which was already “up-listed from vulnerable to endangered” in May 2013.

The email from Geoff Richardson, Assistant Secretary of the Protected Species and Communities Branch, states:

The Migratory Species section considers the Caley Valley wetland, including the area proposed to receive dredge spoil, as one of the most, if not the most, important sites for this species in Australia. Removal and degradation of habitat at Abbot Point would likely: 

  • Lead to a long-term decrease in the size of a population (the CIA estimated the site contained 2.3% of the total population);
  • Disrupt the breeding cycle of the species; 
  • Modify and destroy habitat for the species to the extent that the species is likely to decline; and 
  • Interfere with the recovery of the species.

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said the email casts serious doubt on the plan to dump spoil on the sensitive wetland.

“We applaud the Queensland Government for seeking an alternative to the damaging sea disposal of dredge spoil," Mr O'Gorman said.

“But the Federal Government’s own experts are saying dumping spoil on the wetlands could lead to a long term decline in the endangered Australian painted snipe."

“This new evidence reinforces the need for a full environmental impact assessment – something WWF-Australia has been pushing for since the Caley Valley wetland option was first announced last year."

“WWF has also repeatedly called for a longer jetty to avoid the majority of dredging, with any spoil then placed on land at a less sensitive location,” Mr O’Gorman said.  

WWF-Australia Media Contact:

Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571