Geoscience Reference
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Gladstone area, and the reclamation of coastal land in the vicinity of Cairns. After
1945, expansions took place in the grazing, sugar cane, tropical fruit, tobacco
and mining industries. Increases in sugar cultivation, in particular, occurred as
wartime shortages of fertiliser and labour were overcome and as the introduction
of bulk-loading facilities facilitated sugar exports. The considerable expansion of
sugar cane acreage in Queensland between 1952 and 1976, illustrated in Figure
4.1(a), occurred in response to rising world sugar prices and growing demand from
Asian customers, especially in Japan, South Korea and China; that expansion
led to further soil erosion and further inputs of sediment and nutrients to the
nearshore waters of the Great Barrier Reef (Griggs, 2007, 2011).
Particular environmental degradation in coastal Queensland occurred during
the 1960s and 1970s, when large areas of freshwater swamp were drained for sugar
cane cultivation and many stream catchments were cleared to provide additional
agricultural land. Those changes generated further soil erosion, substantially
increasing sediment and nutrient runoff from the GBRCA (Arthington et al.,
1997; Meyer, 1997; Furnas, 2003; Griggs, 2007, 2011). During that period, other
resource exploitation was proposed in the Great Barrier Reef itself. Oil exploration
occurred during the 1960s and permits for oil drilling in the Great Barrier Reef
were issued by the Queensland Government (Fitzgerald, 1984; Hopley, 1989).
However, by the late 1960s, the perceived extent of environmental exploitation
and degradation in Queensland was prompting conservation concerns among
the public (Bowen, 1994; Bowen and Bowen, 2002). In particular, a proposal by
the Cairns District Canegrowers Association to mine coral from Ellison Reef,
near Innisfail, generated unprecedented levels of environmental protest, which,
together with public fears about the consequences of oil pollution in the Great
Barrier Reef, eventually led to the formation of the GBRMP in 1975.
Since 1981, conservation in coastal Queensland has been facilitated by the
designation of the GBRWHA and, in northern Queensland, of the adjacent Wet
Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). As a result, scientific monitoring of
human impacts on the outstanding natural phenomena of those environments
commenced and greater attention was paid to their management. In particular,
the multiple impacts of terrestrial runoff, commercial and recreational fisheries,
shipping and tourism (amongst other activities) are now recognised as significant
threats to the quality of the Great Barrier Reef. Also since around 1981, however,
very rapid expansion of the Queensland tourism industry has occurred, driven by
increases in international tourism and domestic migration to Queensland. Tourist
resorts were developed at Lizard, Green, Dunk, Magnetic and several of the
Whitsunday Islands; coastal tourism facilities, such as the developments at Port
Douglas and Port Hinchinbrook, have also expanded (Lawrence et al., 2002). In
contrast, other Queensland industries have faced crises. The Queensland tobacco
industry has ceased and declining sugar prices on the world market have reduced
the profitability of sugar cane farming. Other industries - including commercial
fisheries - are increasingly curtailed in the marine protected areas of the
Queensland coast as they are believed to threaten the World Heritage status of
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