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Poruma seawall builds climate resilience in the Torres Strait

Poruma community celebrates. PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Levi, TSRA Natural Resource Management Officer – Ranger Supervisor (Poruma & Warraber)

The official opening of the $5 million Poruma Seawall Project has provided a boost for climate resilience in the Torres Strait community of Poruma (Coconut Island), in Far North Queensland.

The one-kilometre-long seawall is among completed works to mitigate coastal inundation and erosion on the picturesque, low-lying coral cay island community, north of Cairns.

Poruma is one of five island communities to benefit from a $40 million seawall package co-funded by the Australian Government and the Queensland Government.

The Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said all levels of government, including the Torres Strait Regional Authority, state government and local council, worked together to deliver the Poruma Seawall Project.

“The new Poruma Seawall will better protect the community’s island home from the impacts of rising sea levels, erosion, high tides and severe weather events,” Minister Burney said.

“Our shared commitment to making a practical difference on the ground, including local jobs for local people during construction, shows we deliver best when all levels of government listen to community, work together and deliver on local-led climate priorities in the Torres Strait.”

Queensland Minister for State Development and Infrastructure Grace Grace said the project was important for climate resilience in the state’s far north.

“Queensland is the most disaster-affected state in Australia and the recent cyclones, storms and floods mean we must prioritise our preparation, investment and response to natural disasters,” Minister Grace said.

“The Queensland Government is investing in fit-for-purpose infrastructure, regional resources and local workforces to build community resilience towards a safer, stronger Queensland from the cities to the islands.”

Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) Chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen AM said the much-needed project followed significant community consultation.

“Thank you to the people of Poruma for their patience and perseverance over many years during consultation, design, project delivery and now completion,” Mr Stephen said.

“This is a critical climate initiative for our region with sea levels rising at about three times the rate of the global average in the Torres Strait.”

Torres Strait Island Regional Council (TSIRC) Mayor Phillemon Mosby said the seawall was already making a positive impact to withstand recent king tides.

“Seawalls are critical in helping safeguard not only our homes and vital infrastructure – such as roads, health and education facilities – but also our culture and livelihoods,” Mayor Mosby said.

“We thank all project partners and our local TSIRC Civil Construction Crew and the Engineering Department for delivering a sustainable project that council and community can now monitor, manage and maintain largely by using expertise and equipment within the region.”

The project was jointly funded by the Australian Government through the TSRA and the Queensland Government’s former Department of State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning.

It was delivered by TSIRC and supported up to 9 local fulltime jobs during the construction phase of the project.

The Poruma Seawall Project is part of a $40 million Stage 2 program of coastal protection works across five islands (Boigu Island, Poruma Island, Iama Island, Masig Island and Warraber Island).

Minor works were undertaken in Stage 1 in preparation of the Poruma Seawall in late 2018 under initial seawalls funding, which also completed seawall works on Saibai Island and partial works on Boigu Island.

The Poruma Seawall Project includes more than 5600 geotextile sandbags weighing up to two tonnes (2000 kilograms) each, filled with 100% local sand extracted from Poruma beach.

The large geotextile sandbags offer a more durable, cost effective, ecologically sustainable and practical long-term solution for large shoreline protection projects and erosion control in comparison to typical sandbags used for short-term or emergency use. The geobag design is also able to be maintained in the long term by the regional workforce who are now trained and skilled in its maintenance.

Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people are advised this website may contain names, images and recordings of people who have passed.