barrier reef

The Great Barrier Reef

Environmental groups have claimed a victory against plans to expand coal shipments through a port on the Great Barrier Reef with major construction firm Lend Lease withdrawing from one of the terminal expansion projects.

Lend Lease's chief executive Steve McCann has confirmed that it had let its planned joint bid to build and finance the Abbot Point X coal terminal near Bowen on the central Queensland coast lapse after an internal review.

Mr McCann said Lend Lease remained committed to applying “rigorous due diligence” and considering the environmental impacts of all it projects, without explaining the reason for dropping its joint bid with Aurizon.

Aurizon, formerly known as QR National, said through a spokeswoman that it is continuing “a dialogue with the government regarding the Abbot Point Expansion project”.

Lucy Manne, national co-director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, said active campaigning by 36 organisations and an international drive for support that drew 147,000 responses helped sway the Sydney-based company.

“This is a huge victory for the Reef, for Australians and for the world community, and we want to commend Lend Lease for demonstrating its credentials as a leader in sustainability, and its commitment to sound environmental principles and good corporate citizenship,” Ms Manne said.

Lend Lease has made much of its environmental credentials, including driving energy efficiency and waste recycling in major commercial projects. “Sustainability has always defined the way Lend Lease does business,” the company states on its website.

The port expansion would require 3 million tonnes of dredged spoil that the federal government has approved can be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The huge expansion of coal shipments from the Galilee Basin would also increase shipping traffic through the reef and contribute to rising greenhouse gas concentrations once the fossil fuels are burnt.

The exit of Lend Lease will raise further doubts about the viability of the port expansion, the Australian Greens environment spokeswoman, Senator Larissa Waters, said.

“Companies are bailing on Abbot Point thick and fast,” Senator Waters said. “Lend Lease is just the latest, with BHP and Rio Tinto also getting out recently.

“With the coal price dropping and China opting for renewable energy instead, coal ports and coal mines are becoming as toxic to investors as they are to the Reef itself."