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Green group takes legal action over Abbot Point dredging

The Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef. Photo: Supplied

Environmentalists will launch court action against the federal government and its decision to allow dredging and spoil dumping in Great Barrier Reef waters for the expansion of coal export terminals at Abbot Point.

The Mackay Conservation Group, given $150,000 raised by activist group GetUp!, will file documents in the Federal Court on Monday challenging the decision on the grounds that the government failed its legal obligations to protect a world heritage site by approving the project.

It is the second legal challenge to the proposed Abbot Point development. Last month the North Queensland Conservation Group launched an appeal against a separate decision to allow the dumping of dredge spoil in reef waters by the authority which oversees the marine park.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved the Abbot Point project in December under strict conditions, including the dredging and dumping of 3 million tonnes of sludge in the reef's waters to expand coal export terminals.

The Abbot Point development is one of many resource projects proposed for the coastline along the Great Barrier Reef.

Industrial development and other threats has raised the concern of the World Heritage Committee, which has asked the Australian and Queensland governments to install several measures to better protect the reef or else risk it being considered "in danger".

The Mackay Conservation Group is challenging the Abbot Point decision through a provision in the national environment laws that allows for a judicial review by the Federal Court of any decision made.

Group campaigner Ellen Roberts said the review would test national environment laws protecting world heritage sites that had never been tested in court in this way before.

"If we are successful then potentially the decision could have implications for other world heritage areas as well," she said.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt said the government approved the Abbot Point project in line with national environmental laws and with "some of the toughest conditions and safeguards in Australian history".

Brad Fish, chief executive of the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, said on Friday the focus on dredging had taken the debate about the reef's future away from the real issues threatening its survival.

He pointed to an article by University of Central Queensland coral ecologist Dr Alison Jones and marine scientist and consultant Dr Brett Kettle posted on The Conver-sation that said green groups had wrongly argued dredging and dumping were a major threat to the reef.

The article said this diverted attention from other more important risks facing the reef and research into more programs that would boost its resilience and recovery from disturbances, such as cyclone damage and coral bleaching.

Other scientists say the Abbot Point port expansion is a significant threat, with 200 signing an open letter in January urging the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to block the dredge spoil dumping in reef waters saying the best available science was clear that the coal terminal expansion would have a detrimental effect.

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20 comments

  • Kudos to Mackay Conservation Group and GetUp! Power to you. Let's all, as a nation, unite and rally to save this priceless global treasure threatened by the ugliness of Abbott government greed and environmental ignorance.

    Commenter
    Colby
    Date and time
    March 24, 2014, 9:15AM
    • Hear, Hear!

      The greed of these LNP governments know no bounds. What they fail to understand is that if we stuff it up, it will be gone for many lifetimes to come. If you want to see what that might look like, go to somewhere like Palawan in the Philippines where the coral sea bed is all but dead. Shame Abbott and Newman, shame!

      Commenter
      JJ
      Date and time
      March 24, 2014, 9:59AM
    • Agreed kudos to MCC and Getup.
      Gotta laugh at the name Mr Fish, being the CEO of the Ports Corporation. Obviously he doesn't care much for his relatives.
      Best of luck, this must be stopped.

      Commenter
      A country gal
      Date and time
      March 24, 2014, 10:27AM
  • For all of those greedy businesses leeching off Australia's natural resources. Not sure you understand the simplicity of:
    Killing the GBReef means killing off large quantities of tourism for Australia
    (unless you think that big holes in the ground will attract people from across the world?)

    Commenter
    Jump
    Date and time
    March 24, 2014, 9:44AM
    • How ironic ... Abbot(t) Point. We can only hope that the WA voters will spell out a clear message through their Senate vote to prevent this LNP stupidity.

      Commenter
      MP
      Date and time
      March 24, 2014, 9:57AM
      • Outside of Australia the world produces wind turbines with capacities of 8 megawatts (8 million watts, meanwhile our imported turbines are half these capacities). Our taxes went into CSIRO perfecting concentrated solar power that can provide power 24/7 night and day because our desert regions hold the world’s greatest source of solar energy. We have the largest source of wave power in the world (southern ocean).

        Today Australia boasts no concentrated solar power stations, our wind energy is minuscule compared to other western countries, and one can count on one hand the number of wave power devices operating, of which none are commercial up and running operations, meanwhile the UK has been generating billion of KWh from waves for years.

        She’ll be right mate, is the dumb attitude of not taking advantage of free energy sources, but allow billions of dollars to be spent wrecking the GBR and other sensitive environments for the sake of coal mining. Meanwhile the world is doing its best to phase coal production out? Already Obama has a wary eye on our lack of performance and no doubt is asking what is Australia up too, why isn’t Australia doing its fair share on climate change, when the US federal government alone spent more than $40 billion on climate change in the last two years. Why is Australia’s emissions target so pitifully low at 5% while the chances are it can in all probability not even achieve it?

        Australians must understand that there is only one atmosphere and every country is responsible for it. The nonsensical argument that Australia can do nothing about climate change begs belief: we are the world’s third largest producer of coal, the highest emitter of emissions per capita in the world, and we simply cannot allow it to continue?

        Commenter
        Pen of hrba
        Date and time
        March 24, 2014, 10:11AM
        • "Outside of Australia the world produces wind turbines with capacities of 8 megawatts (8 million watts, meanwhile our imported turbines are half these capacities)".
          Well gee, @Pen, maybe we're just importing the wrong models?
          "... concentrated solar power that can provide power 24/7 night and day".
          That would be a neat trick, solar power at night.
          If the world is phasing out coal, then why are they buying so much from us?
          So much of your comment doesn't make sense.

          On topic, the reef is so huge that, even if a very small portion of it is temporarily damaged by dumping dredge spoil, it will be there for a very long time.

          Commenter
          The Other Guy
          Location
          Geelong
          Date and time
          March 24, 2014, 11:15AM
        • "Pen of hrba Location Date and time March 24, 2014, 10:11AM"
          "Meanwhile the world is doing its best to phase coal production out? "

          It that right Pen of hrba.
          Maybe you should do some research.

          Global demand for coal is expected to grow to 8.9 billion tons by 2016 from 7.9 billion tons this year. China is expected to add about 160 new coal-fired plants to the 620 operating now, within four years. During that period, India will add more than 46 plants.

          Commenter
          Mark
          Date and time
          March 24, 2014, 12:05PM
        • @The Other Guy, he said "provide" power, not generate it. You might want to look at UltraBattery and other energy storage technologies that are being used with CSP.

          On topic, the dredge spoil can drift for kilometres so the affected area could be quite large. However, the main point here is that land disposal doesn't have this problem. Is it worth permanently damaging our reef just so coal-producers can save a few bucks? If they want access, they can pay to do it properly. The Abbott government won't give handouts in the form of money but they will in the form of environmental destruction? Doesn't sit right with me.

          Commenter
          Dags
          Date and time
          March 24, 2014, 12:24PM
        • @The Other Guy, I presently run both tv sets, all computing and ADSL, 6kg washing machine, cordless ponies, radios, recharge Mobiles + iPad, lights. etc all off Solar battery bank. I also have wood boosted, evacuated tube solar hot water (partly developed by Sydney uni in the 70s). I also put on my roof pump to the grid 1kw solar under very first schemes when Howard was in government. YES the LNP was once pro renewable and pro Emissions Trading Scheme. I am now building for a lot less money than you might think, a third solar PV system to run the refrigerator 24/7 (16% average household power use). 500w of panels $385 (80 cents per watt), MPPT controller 40a $265. My last electricity bill for family of four $5. I am not wealthy or "drive an AUDI" (ABC Q&A).

          Commenter
          Urban Off-gridder
          Date and time
          March 24, 2014, 12:44PM

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