Save the Reef media release.
9 January 2013
International embarrasment - Great Barrier Reef Dumpsite
French television internationally embarrassed Australia by airing news about the Great Barrier Reef "dump site". In a 10 minute program the French interviewed Gladstone fishermen with their sick fish and ruined livelihood and discussed the Abbot Point expansion. France had no problems discussing how Australia is risking their World Heritage Status with plans to expand Abbot Point and dump dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. (This plan was mostly ignored by Australian TV when released) The decision makers in France would most likely have seen this news program and it will not aid Australia's case which will be presented on 1st February 2012 to UNESCO (who have threatened to put the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area on the "In-Danger" list).
The Government continues to ignore the UNESCO recommendation and released its 10 year Port Strategy with its plans to expand ports like Abbot Point throughout the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. They intend to continue to use the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area as a dredge spoil dumping zone despite 91% of people opposing it and plan to start charging to dump spoil in the marine park despite UNESCO's recommendation to improve water quality. The government have relaxed the water quality limits and allowed dredging over the limits. They fined the dredgers a paltry $6600 for dumping tonnes of their spoils illegally in the World Heritage Area and passed new legislation so that mines can dump their waste water (the equivalent of half of Sydney Harbour) which will flow into the Great Barrier Reef.
“The government is defying UNESCO. It not only recommended expansion of ports that don’t need to be expanded, it also relaxed the coastal development laws, despite UNESCO expressing extreme concern about “the unprecedented scale of coastal development.” said Dr Andrew Jeremijenko.
The state has announced its 3 month inquiry into the Health Payroll, but has failed to announce the UNESCO recommended inquiry into Gladstone Harbour and Curtis Island including its expansion into the pristine Keppel Bay. The local council, the state member and the Federal member, all oppose the expansion of Gladstone ports into the Fitzroy Delta and Keppel Bay, home to the rare Snubfin dolphin.
Jeff Seeney called UNESCO a "bunch of international beurocrats" and Campbell Newmans response to the UNESCO recommendations was “...We are in the coal business…" While the world is watching us and making a decision about our ability to protect the World Heritage Area, these comments can only be described as "grossly incompetent".
Dr Andrew Jeremijenko, spokesperson for Save the Reef, said “The Queensland Government is not only risking the World Heritage Listing by defying UNESCO recommendations unnecessarily, it is risking our reputation as custodians of the Great Barrier Reef, a world wonder, a tourism icon and our national treasure. The World Heritage “In Danger” listing would make us polluters of the reef, instead of protectors of the reef. It would be a worldwide embarrassment. It is no wonder the French journalists filmed a story when they saw it for themselves."
There is no need to ignore UNESCO. There is no need to expand the ports. Coal can use existing ports. Our Reef has lost over 50% of its coral and the “In Danger” list is likely. If we won’t protect the Great Barrier Reef, we won’t protect anything.