Concern over the protection of the Great Barrier Reef from “port dredging”

The Guardian reports, 11th July 2014: “The amount of money needed to “offset” the impact of a dredging project on the Great Barrier Reef could be as much as $1bn — which is $998m more than the project developer has suggested.

Documents obtained under freedom of information reveal huge uncertainty over the investment needed to maintain water quality following dredging to expand the Abbot Point port, north of Bowen in Queensland. In approving the development, which will allow for a greater volume of shipped coal exports, environment minister Greg Hunt stipulated there must be a 150% net benefit in water quality after the dredging.

Abbot Point

Internal emails from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority show the cost of maintaining water quality after dredging for Abbot Point is open to question.
Photograph: AAP

Several experts, including those from the United Nations, have questioned whether this is viable, with critics claiming that digging up seabed and dumping it within the Great Barrier Reef marine park will smother coral with sediment and kill off marine life.

Minutes from a meeting show that North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, the proponents of the Abbot Point expansion, estimated that $2m would be needed to offset the dumped sediment.

A spokeswoman for NQBP said that this wasn’t the case as costs were still being worked through. Any suggestion that NQBP is only allocating $2m for water quality improvement work is not correct,” she said. “The exact details and costs are still being worked through with the department so at this stage there is no accurate figure which can be provided either by NQBP, the Department of Environment or GBRMPA. It is also important to understand that dredging has not yet occurred and that there are a number of conditions which will need to be met to ensure that impacts are avoided and mitigated.”

North Queensland Conservation Council is currently engaged in a court battle to stop the Abbot Point expansion.

Source: The Guardian, 11th July 2014. For the full text see www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/11/great-barrier-reef-impact-from-dredging-could-cost-as-much-as-1bn

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