Under questioning during Senate Estimates in Canberra, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) revealed that the impacts of seabed dredging for coal port developments along the Great Barrier Reef coast could be far worse than previously understood.
“This new information means Environment Minister Tony Burke must knock-back the dredging permit application that’s currently on his desk, which would allow North Queensland Bulk Ports to dig up 3 million cubic metres of seabed and dump the spoil within the Reef World Heritage Area”, said Greenpeace’s Queensland Campaigner Louise Matthiesson.
In response to questions from Greens Senator Larissa Waters, GBRMPA staff stated that:
– new research shows the amount of sediment stirred up by dredging is “roughly in the same order of volume” as the amount flowing down rivers onto the Reef from land-based sources.
– the yet-to-be released research reveals that deep ocean currents are transporting dredge spoil much further than indicated by industry modelling, widening the impact on fisheries and nearby coral reefs;
– the new research has not been presented to Environment Minister Tony Burke even though he is due to decide within weeks whether to allow dredging near Abbot Point in north Queensland.
“These revelations come at a time when Environment Minister Tony Burke is considering approving this major dredging permit application for the proposed coal port expansion at Abbot Point. Clearly, there is new information that the public needs to see, and may rule out this project, given the scale of impact it could have” said Ms Matthiesson.
“The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s greatest natural treasures; we can’t afford to treat it as an industrial dump-zone.”
“By continuing to allow dredging within the Reef World Heritage Area, the Federal Government is undermining the multi-million dollar federally funded Reef Rescue program which is working to reduce sediment run-off from land.”
“We’re calling on Minister Burke to hold off on any decision on dredging at Abbot Point until this research has been released and its implications are fully understood, and to not approve any more development that would impact on the outstanding universal values of the Reef.”
“There are proposals for even larger dredging projects near Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Yeppoon and Gladstone in coming years, so this new study has far-reaching implications for port development projects throughout Queensland.”
Press Release, June 4, 2013