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Ex-Great Barrier Reef official criticises spoil dredging

Environmentalists and some scientists say dredge spoil will harm the Great Barrier Reef.

Environmentalists and some scientists say dredge spoil will harm the Great Barrier Reef.

A former senior director with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has spoken out against the department's decision to allow dredge spoil to be dumped in the marine park off Abbot Point.

Earlier this year the authority issued a permit for North Queensland Bulk Ports to dump three million cubic metres of dredged seabed offshore as part of a project to turn Abbot Point into one of the world's biggest coal ports.

The decision followed Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt's approval of the expansion.

Environmentalists and some scientists say the dredge spoil will harm the reef, while the federal government says developers must adhere to strict environmental conditions.

Jon Day, a former GBRMPA senior director, opposes the decision and the way it was made.

"I believe there were alternatives that weren't properly considered when that decision was made," he told ABC's Four Corners which aired on Monday night.

"If we did a proper evaluation of all the alternatives, that decision would not have been made."

Mr Day, spent two decades with the authority before resigning this year, said the spoil shouldn't be dumped within the marine park.

"Our own legislative mandate says 'the long-term protection and conservation of the values', and we're not doing that," he said.

Mr Hunt said his advice was that disposing the spoil was safe.

"I did a very careful and deep review and what was clear is that we could tighten and strengthen the conditions," he told the ABC.

GBRMPA chairman Russell Reichelt said he doesn't believe the project will harm the reef.

"The risks around Abbot are low and approvals were given on that basis that they are manageable," he said.

Internal emails obtained under Freedom of Information reportedly show that up until January this year GBRMPA experts were against the proposal.

Mr Reichelt told the ABC he had encouraged staff to air their views.

"The project changed considerably over the life to something that at the end a decision was made taking all of that into account that that disposal could occur safely," he said.

In June next year the World Heritage Committee will decide if the reef should go on its "in danger" list.


4 comments so far

  • Given the revelations last night, perhaps all of the options for Abbott Point need to be put back on the table including dumping on-shore etc. Mr Roche from the QRC said it wasn't about the money, so presumably if a solution that dies not involve dumping close to the GBR, or raises safety issues, then it will be adopted.

    Date and time
    August 19, 2014, 8:52AM
    • Where have I heard "strict environmental conditions" before? Owe that's right the Gladstone harbour disaster! The STRICT ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS were completely ignored in Gladstone harbour, they were not enforced and the developers did as they pleased! IF you are going to ignore science and do as you want, then you can pretty much expect a repeat performance of the GLADSTONE HARBOUR ECOCIDE! People that don't learn from their mistakes are generally regarded as STUPID!!! Do you really want stupid people making decisions about the Great Barrier Reef?

      The Deep Blue Sea
      Date and time
      August 19, 2014, 8:55AM
      • The LnP are not only destroying the lives of Queenslanders and Australians but also our environment and its sovereign natural treasures. All for a quick buck and in return for their mates support/donations and post political career job opportunities! Greed rules in Australia. Be very afraid. Anything that can be capitalised on and exploited will be! God is $10,000 shoved in an envelope as we've seen in NSW.

        Date and time
        August 19, 2014, 9:50AM
    • Australian marine law is invoked under an Act of Parliament. The primary objective is “conservation of biological diversity” that must be “effective”. I guess that means to identify and minimise risk to marine life.
      Last night Reichelt spoke of ‘risks’ associated with the dredging. How is it that ‘risks’ get swept aside and turn into a ‘go-ahead’. Greg Hunt says (from his detached Canberra locale) that it’s the ‘last time’ dredging will be performed on or near the Reef. This implies dreadful risk.Yet despite identified risks, Hunt and GBRMPA are happy to sacrifice life and limb within an argument based on selective observation.Time and again governments legally manipulate conservation law. Death happens silently in the Reef.

      ancient mariner
      Date and time
      August 19, 2014, 10:49AM

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