By Danika Ferguson, edited for online by Sarah Richards

Brisbane has been identified as a strategic location for our nation’s naval base, but the financial benefits of the controversial decision are under scrutiny.

Debate over the economic rewards versus environmental and social consequences has heated up.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute director of operations Andrew Davies says Queensland could house new naval vessels.

“Well there’s nothing concrete in place yet but what’s being talked about is using Brisbane as a base for at least one if not both of the new 27,000 tonne amphibious ships that are coming along,” Mr Davies said.

He says the move would ease pressure on Sydney’s busy waterways.

“The navy base in Sydney Harbour is increasingly crowded and there’s competition for space in the harbour,” Mr Davies said

Mr Davies also says the development would assist Queensland’s army.

“These ships really are to be used for transport for the army and given that the army is located much more in Queensland than it is in New South Wales, it seems a natural move to have the amphibious ships based a bit further north,” Mr Davies says.

But some argue Queensland does not have the capacity to support a base.

Australia Defence Association executive director Neil James says it will be years before we experience any economic benefits.

“This isn’t going to happen in the short term, it’s going to cost at least $1 billion and it’s going to take at least a decade,” Mr James said.

He says Brisbane does not fit the requirements.

“What you need for a naval base is immediate access to oceanic deep water and you don’t have that anywhere in the Brisbane area,” Mr James said.

He says expanding the existing Cairns naval base isn’t an option.

“The Cairns naval base is just for patrol boats, it’s tiny and it’s on a river,” Mr James says.

“Cairns is in an even worse situation than Brisbane in terms of a harbour and also the Great Barrier Reef is a major obstacle.”

Queensland Conservation Council executive director Toby Hutcheon says any plans for a naval base in Moreton Bay need serious consideration.

“It’s a question of whether this is an appropriate site for a new naval base given the port itself is surrounded by Moreton Bay, which is both a very important habitat and a very important marine park,” Mr Hutcheon says.

He says disruptions to the bay would have a negative impact for the ecosystem and marine life, which includes turtles, dugongs and dolphins.