Australian Great Barrier Reef may not be subjected to new port’s spoil dumping

The Guardian reports, 6th September 2014: “The deputy premier of Queensland, Jeff Seeney, will put a plan to state cabinet that would reverse the decision to dump sediment from the Abbot Point coal port development on the Great Barrier Reef, disposing of it on land instead, according to a report.

Seeney told the Weekend Australian he would then seek a meeting with the federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, to gain Canberra’s approval for the land-based solution. It is understood that the proponents, North Queensland Bulk Ports, GVK Hancock and Adani Group, have been planning to lodge an alternative plan to avoid dumping sediment on the reef.

Abbot Point

Abbot Point in Queensland, the site of the proposed coal port expansion.
Photograph: AAP

Hunt has already approved a plan to dredge 3m cubic metres, equivalent to 5m tonnes, of seabed in order to expand Abbot Point for an increase in coal exports. A proposal to dump the sediment within the reef’s marine park has also been approved by Hunt, although an exact site has yet to be identified.

Environmentalists have fiercely opposed the dumping, claiming it will damage the fragile coral and seagrass ecosystem. It has emerged that scientists at the Great Barrier Reef marine park authority warned against dumping in the marine park, only to be overruled.

It is understood that the port’s developers have been considering land-based disposal for some time and have identified a new site that was previously not available.

A recent report by the Great Barrier Reef marine park authority warned that the reef was in poor condition and was likely to deteriorate, with climate change and pollution cited as the key threats.

The Queensland government reportedly hopes the turnaround will persuade Unesco not to list the Great Barrier Reef as in danger.

Source: The Guardian, 6th September 2014. For the full text, see www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/sep/06/reversal-over-great-barrier-reef-dredge-dumping-plan

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