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Issue #1626      February 12, 2014

Abbot Point – now what?

Last week the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), the agency with, to quote their website, “the fundamental obligation” of protecting the GBR Marine Park, announced its decision to grant North Queensland Bulk Ports a permit to dump three million cubic metres (5-6 million tonnes) of dredge spoil in the Marine Park (and World Heritage Area). The granting followed Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt’s approval of the development application in early December. The permit, under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 and the EPBC (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, was the final bureaucratic step for the proposal.

The dumping would be part of the dredging project approved by the Minister, dredging that would be necessary to enable the creation of the world’s largest coal export port at Abbot Point, slap bang in the GBR World Heritage Area and within coo-ee of the Whitsundays.

Coal is, of course, one of the greatest contributors to climate change – and it is that climate change which is, as GBRMPA acknowledges, the greatest threat to the Reef.

But we are even further into cloud cuckoo land than that demonstrates.

The same day that the permit was granted, was the final day for public comment on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area Strategic Assessment, completed after months of work by GBRMPA and work by the Queensland government. The draft reports released acknowledged that the condition of the Reef south of Cooktown (i.e. where the people are) as well as biodiversity throughout the Area, is “poor and declining”.

And it doesn’t even stop there. In an even more ironic twist,February 1 was the deadline for the Australian and Queensland governments to provide their latest report to the World Heritage Committee (the body with the power to remove”‘world heritage” status) on what they are doing to improve protection of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area!

Outrage at what is perceived as, at least, a dereliction of duty by the federal government and GBRMPA, has been expressed around the world.

NQCC shares this outrage – and, after careful consideration by the Management Committee over the weeks leading up to the decision, is now looking at taking legal action against the Abbot Point decisions.

Much to our delight, GetUp and Fight for the Reef have both kicked off online fund-raising campaigns in support of legal action.

North Queensland Conservation Council was very closely involved in and instigated much action in the process of public consultation, including participation in GBRMPA-led workshops and surveys, lengthy and detailed submission, social media posts, media interviews, market stalls and rallies. Unfortunately, this, as well as the enormous work of many other conservation organisations and individuals, and the outpouring of concern from the community, made no difference.

To the extent possible, we will keep members informed of the process we are undertaking and, in the meantime, encourage you to help the fighting fund along with a generous donation.

NQCC

Next article – Gov’t property and services: Big Business wants the lot!

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