Green in more ways than one
Extensive measures have been put in place by Army to ensure that the Shoalwater Bay environment is preserved for the future.
Prior to the commencement of the exercise, careful planning was undertaken to ensure that the exercise would be ecologically sustainable.
This included conducting extensive ground and aerial surveys to identify any existing environmental damage or concerns. These areas were then marked as off limits for the duration of the exercise to allow for regeneration to occur.
Improvements to infrastructure, such as the repair of roads and crossing points, were also made.
Darwin’s 23rd Construction Squadron moved into location in Shoalwater Bay prior to the start of exercise. Their set out to improve the main supply routes (MSRs) - the main roads of Shoalwater Bay.
“Initially we made improvements to the main supply routes, so that the increase in road traffic has less effect,” said the Officer Commanding of the 23rd Construction Squadron, Captain Marcus Wilson.
“We then started preparing positions, laying out track plans so that the impact of vehicle and foot traffic is minimised. We have also created environmentally-friendly field latrines.”
At the end of the exercise, 23rd Construction Squadron will repair any damage to the MSRs that may have occurred during Exercise Hamel. They will also take measures to allow the area to regenerate.
“We will blade the tracks made to aerate and hydrate the soil and cover the area with deadfall to allow for natural regeneration. With the spring regrowth and the way nature works, within 12 months you will be seeing a very different landscape,” Captain Wilson said.
For the individual units participating in Exercise Hamel, ecological-sustainability was a key consideration in their planning for the exercise.
Commanders liaised with the exercise environmental coordinator to ensure training activities certified and complied with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.
While each unit has an appointed environmental liaison officer to monitor environmental impacts during the exercise, care for the environment is every soldier’s responsibility.
All troops entering the area at the start of the exercise follow the processes in place to ensure they have minimal impact on the environment.
All vehicles, equipment and vehicle loads must attain a “weeds and seeds ticket” at Camp Rocky in Rockhampton; certification that the vehicles and equipment have been decontaminated so that weeds and pests are not brought into Shoalwater Bay.
All personnel also undergo a compulsory environmental brief to make sure that they are aware of environmental issues and the impact that they could potentially have on the environment.
While it is a training area, Shoalwater Bay is a natural environment bordering in places environmentally protected areas such as Byfield National Park and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. As such, Army is taking great care to reduce its environmental impact and preserve the area for the future.