14 Nov 2017

Environmental stewardship of the Great Barrier Reef is at the heart of a landmark research partnership announced today.

JCU Vice Chancellor Harding and Dr Macdonald

North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (NQBP) and James Cook University (JCU) revealed the $3 million agreement in Mackay.

NQBP General Manager Engineering and Development Rochelle Macdonald said the three-year partnership would deliver a rigorous marine water quality and habitat program.

Getting the balance right

"Core to how we do business is getting the balance right,” Dr Macdonald said.

"We are proud to contribute to healthy and ecologically sustainable ports through this partnership.

"It will be an invaluable contribution to Great Barrier Reef research."

NQBP Senior Manager Environment and Planning Kevin Kane said NQBP was the only port authority in the world to manage three priority ports near a World Heritage Area.

"We have a track record of taking a long-term strategic approach to environmental monitoring and research.

"Partnering with leading science institutions and experts will help us achieve this.

"This partnership with JCU’s Tropical Water & Aquatic Ecosystem Research Centre (TropWATER) will form part of our robust environmental program.

“It builds on a 20-year relationship delivering world leading research.

“Our work with TropWATER has provided valuable insights around seagrass assessment and protection.

“It's demonstrated that ports and seagrasses can successfully co-exist.”

36 sites and 6 coastal islands

TropWATER Senior Research Scientist and co-director of the partnership Michael Rasheed said the centre would monitor water quality, seagrass and coral health at the ports of Mackay, Hay Point and Abbot Point, all next to the Great Barrier Reef.

Additional monitoring would also be implemented at the Port of Weipa, including seagrass and water quality.

“What TropWATER does is provide NQBP with independent environmental data collected in a scientifically rigorous manner,” Dr Rasheed said.

“We’ll be watching what happens to water quality at 18 separate points, and checking on seagrass at 23 meadows.

“We’ll also be monitoring thirty-six different sites spread amongst 6 coastal islands to keep an eye on coral.”

Dr Rasheed said the scientists’ work would use state-of-the-art research methods.

This includes a device, custom built at TropWATER, which uses optical ‘backscatter’ to watch sediment deposits.

Traditional methods still in use include helicopter surveys, divers and boat-based camera sleds.

The research data will be reported in NQBP’s annual environmental report Your Ports.

ENDS

North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation contact:

Kirsty Mugridge | Media and Community Engagement Advisor
07 4969 0772 | kmugridge@nqbp.com.au