Airport expansion pollution


  • The Gold Coast Airport expansion plan (Project LIFT) will have negative environmental consequences
  • Surfrider GCT & other groups concerned about destruction of habitat & potential pollution issues
  • Water quality issues at the airport drain outfall at North Kirra could impact on surrounding beach and ocean environments

beach.JPGTogether with other environmental and community groups on either side of the border, Surfrider Foundation Gold Coast Tweed is concerned about the environmental impacts of Project LIFT, the expansion of the Gold Coast Airport, which has been approved by the federal government. Project LIFT has been fast-tracked for completion before the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and includes provision for the new Integrated Landing System (ILS).  

However Surfrider and other groups have expressed the following concerns:

- Insufficient scrutiny in regards to the purchase of such significant crown land on the NSW side & destruction of habitat (eg. Coolangatta Creek)

- Insufficient information about the movement of water sources and tables

- Lack of disclosure regarding potential  contaminants and the danger to the wider ecosystem including the beach at Kirra, the Coolangatta Creek and the Cobaki wetlands to the west

- Lack of accountability & planning in relation to the EIS process and public consultation 

Expansion plans will lead to a newly constructed airport drainage system and the filling in of what remains of the near-beach habitat at Coolangatta Creek to make way for a transport staging area and terminal expansion. 

Surfrider GCT is particularly concerned about the potential for pollution from the airport to be drained into what is now the Coolangatta Creek, and from there into the ocean outfall at Kirra. There is potential for unsafe pollution to enter the Kirra outfall system via stormwater run off from the runway (eg. petroleum-based residues from aircraft), from spills (eg. aviation gas), as well as run off of hazardous firefighting foam chemicals which may have leached into the soil on site. 


Kirra groyne is about 1km away from the drain outfall

The draft Major Development Plan for Project LIFT identified an area of contaminated land west of the runway just on the NSW side of the border associated with a fire fighting training area. Chemicals which have been used in firefighting foam include Perflurooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and Perflurooctane acid (PFOA), which are toxic and persist in the environment for a long time. The concern is that these chemicals will leach into groundwater and flow into Coolangatta Creek (as well as the Cobaki Broadwater and the Bilinga residential area). 

Surfrider was active in the Coolangatta Creek area in the late 1990s when we conducted plantings along the creek banks to enhance its ability to prevent pollution entering the outfall system and to increase community ownership of this area of suburban natural beauty. We also coordinated a Beach Care location at North Kirra on the northern side of Coolangatta Creek between 2011-2013, which cleaned up and regenerated the dune area there. 

Surfrider is seeking to clarify Gold Coast Airports’ water management plans for project LIFT, both before construction starts and during the operational phase of the expanded airport, including:

- Water quality control measures integrated into the project design, especially in relation to drainage (eg. oil and grit separators and water treatment plants)

- Ongoing surface water quality monitoring programs (eg. independent and regular testing)

- Spill prevention and emergency spill response procedures


 Upstream Cooly Creek, a little-known gem about to be destroyed


COMMUNITY groups have accused officials of negligence after it was confirmed potentially carcinogenic chemicals had leached into soils surrounding the Gold Coast Airport. 

A spokeswoman for Airservices Australia, the government body responsible for firefighting services at Australian airports, confirmed testing had revealed the presence of Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in soils at the airport fire station and training area. 

Both are components of Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) which was used for firefighting at the airport until 2010, and both are suspected of being carcinogenic. 

Tugun Cobaki Alliance spokeswoman Lindy Smith said people living nearby should avoid using water spearpumps or waterways and avoid eating any fish or other creatures caught in the waterways. 

“These particular chemicals have been known since 2005 to pose environmental and health risks and I consider this exposure to be truly negligent,” Ms Smith said. 

“There’s a very high risk we could have very extensive contamination there.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Volunteer Find an Event