Great Barrier Reef authority approves dredge spoil dumping from Hay Point

Decision to give permit to coalport south of Mackay displays 'astounding level of arrogance', conservation group says
Australian Associated Press 5 Jun 14;

The government body that protects the Great Barrier Reef has approved the dumping of more than 370,000 cubic metres of dredge spoil in the marine park.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has issued a permit to allow a port authority to dump the spoil as part of a dredging project at Hay Point coalport south of Mackay.

The decision has angered conservation groups, and comes only months after the authority gave the green light for 3m tonnes of spoil to be dumped as part of a project to expand the Abbot Point coalport 200km to the north.

"It is an astounding level of arrogance," said a North Queensland Conservation Council spokeswoman, Wendy Tubman. "The government claims it is protecting the reef while allowing it to be subjected to such damage from out-of-control sea dumping."

She also says the federal and Queensland governments are taking Unesco "for a ride".

The UN’s environment arm has said it regrets the federal government's decision to approve the Abbot Point dredging project and has raised concerns about the overall health of the reef. Unesco is expected to discuss whether to list the reef as a world heritage site "in danger" when it meets next week.

The Ports Corporation of Queensland wants to carry out the works at Hay Point to make it easier for ships to access the port and to increase capacity. It is estimated 378,400 cubic metres of dredge spoil will be dumped within the marine park over three years. The dredging will be carried out within the marine park and the world heritage area.

Comment has been sought from the marine park authority.

Five Queensland mega ports win approval, including Abbot Point
Expansions will be allowed at other ports near Great Barrier Reef, including Gladstone, Hay Point, Mackay and Townsville
Australian Associated Press 5 Jun 14;

Five mega ports will be allowed along the Queensland coast, mainly in areas near the Great Barrier Reef.

Abbot Point, one of the world's biggest coal terminals, has been declared a port development priority area.

The declaration comes only six months after green groups lost a battle to stop 3m cubic metres of dredge spoil from being dumped in the reef marine park boundaries.

The North Queensland Conservation Council is taking action at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, with a preliminary hearing set down for August.

As well as at Abbot Point, expansions will be allowed at other ports adjacent to the reef, including Gladstone, Hay Point, Mackay and Townsville.

Brisbane has also been earmarked for major growth.

Queensland's deputy premier, Jeff Seeney, said dredging outside these priority port areas would be banned under the new strategy.

"Within and adjoining the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area, the Queensland government will prohibit dredging for the development of new, or the expansion of existing port facilities outside these port precincts, for the next decade," he said, adding the approach was consistent with Unesco world heritage committee recommendations.

But Queensland Greens senator Larissa Waters said the new "faux restriction" on dredging was useless.

"It won't apply to any of the damaging dredging already applied for which is the very dredging that Unesco was concerned about," she said, adding dredging would continue at 20 ports.

"This is atrocious news for the Great Barrier Reef."

The Australian Marine Conservation Society said coastline along the reef would be industrialised.

"The new policy won't stop a single port development or dredging proposal planned along the Queensland coast," campaigner Felicity Wishart said.

• This article was amended on 6 June 2014. The original version referred to a court battle that had been lost.