My article below as published on the Queensland Telegraph at . http://www.queenslandtelegraph.com/lack-of-report-cards-on-barrier-reef-health-a-concern/
The three massive LNG plants under construction on Curtis Island in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (construction much more advanced now). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the effects on water quality in a once pristine waterway, and what was once hundreds of hectares of mangroves.
Heron Island, a popular international tourist destination off Gladstone.
Lack of report cards on Barrier Reef health a concern
ENVIRONMENTALISTS remain pessimistic that the Great Barrier Reef will be placed on the World Heritage Committee’s in danger list, despite a new ultimatum to the State and Federal Governments to take prompt action to protect it.
In an interim report recently released, UNESCO gave both governments until next February to convince it that effective measures were being taken to halt new port developments and improve water quality.
Following major concerns raised in a delegates’ mission report last March, the international body said some progress had been made, but not enough to demonstrate that the Reef’s outstanding universal value (OUV) was protected.
Coastal development and water quality issues in Gladstone were again highlighted, together with proposed development at Port Alma and Balaclava Island.
When the World Heritage Committee meets in Cambodia next month, it is expected to adopt the new recommendation. This states that the Great Barrier Reef be included in the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2014, ‘‘in the absence of a firm and demonstrable commitment’’ from the state and federal governments to take action.
UNESCO referred to a draft Great Barrier Reef Ports Strategy released by the Queensland Government last October which proposed to prevent “significant” development outside existing port areas until 2022, but said this did not restrict development to existing footprints of individual ports.
“According to the strategy, development can occur in all areas identified in the land use plans for each port,” UNESCO said.
“The World Heritage Centre and IUCN received reports indicating that in recent years a number of port boundaries were extended significantly to include areas of significant habitat that contribute to OUV.
“They note that the Queensland Deputy Premier’s media release announcing the draft Port Strategy stated that future development would be possible ‘at several locations such as Balaclava Island and Port Alma in the Port of Gladstone’.
“They also note that both these locations are outside existing major port areas (40 to 50 km away from the port of Gladstone), in the relatively undeveloped Fitzroy River delta, and that there is currently no development on Balaclava Island that could justify its classification as an existing port area.”
It was also critical of the lack of promised annual “report cards” on the Reef, pointing out that so far only one had been published for 2009 as the baseline.
“…another key concern is the lack of clarity about whether the negative trend in water quality continues to be reduced and the positive signs of restoration are maintained, as annual water quality report cards have not been published as predicted. They recommend that the (World Heritage) Committee urge the State Party to confirm a clear financial commitment by the Australian Government to maintain the Reef Rescue program as a matter of urgency…”
In response, Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke claimed the government had already taken steps and would work with the WHC to protect the value of the reef.
‘‘It’s one of the most precious places on earth,’’ he said.
‘‘Some of the recent announcements have not yet been incorporated into today’s (UNESCO) report, such as a $200 million commitment to the next stage of Reef Rescue.’’
But according to Save the Reef spokesman Dr Andrew Jerimijenko, that was not nearly enough. He told the Telegraph:
“It is like getting a butterfly net to stop a plague of locusts. It is not going to bring back the 50 percent of coral already lost, it is not going to even stop us losing the next 50 percent in 10 years.
“ We need something like the $12 billion given to save the Murray River.
“The Crown of Thorns is being driven by sediment (dredge spoil feeds them). He has to stop industry using the Great Barrier Reef as a dump. He has to stop approving the industrialisation of the Reef, and he has to do this in less than four months, because I can’t see (Opposition Environment spokesman) Greg Hunt being any better.
“If I were a betting man I would put money on a 2014 In Danger listing”.
Australians for Animals coordinator Sue Arnold said the UNESCO warning indicated “the same old story”.
“Both the state and federal governments will allow the GBR World Heritage Area to be destroyed in the name of economic development.
“Gillard’s government is the most anti-environmental government in the history of this country, only equalled by the crap coming out of the Newman ministers,” she claimed.
However, Queensland Environment Minister Andrew Powell is confident the reports required of the State Government would be presented to UNESCO in time to avoid the threatened in danger listing.
He said the LNP government was already reviewing Gladstone Harbour and compiling a ports strategy. It was already assessing the health of the Reef through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in cooperation with the Federal Government.
By John Mikkelsen