Pay to pol­lute our reef sites

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - DONNA-MARIE MILNE

A BACK­LASH from ma­rine and tourism groups and the Aus­tralian public is ex­pected fol­low­ing the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s re­lease of its “pay to pol­lute” plans which will al­low the dump­ing of po­ten­tially heav­ily con­tam­i­nated sludge on the reef from July 1.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has pro­posed a fee of $5-$15 per cu­bic me­tre be im­posed by the Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park Au­thor­ity (GBRMPA) to per­mit dis­posal of dredged ma­te­rial from the planned ex­pan­sion of Queens­land ports due to the rapid in­crease of coal and min­ing ex­por­ta­tion.

Un­der the plan, dredged ma­te­rial from Dickson’s In­let, the Dain­tree River or the Cairns port could be dumped on the reef.

The pro­posal has been deemed as “en­vi­ron­men­tal van­dal­ism” by re­cre­ational fish­ing body Sun­fish Queens­land which be­lieves the scheme will cre­ate longterm dam­age to the reef and claims the Gov­ern­ment is re­ject­ing al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tions for “a few pieces of sil­ver”.

“(the fact) that there is no al­ter­na­tive is a mistruth and there is plenty of ter­res­trial area avail­able - how­ever, it costs more,” Sun­fish Queens­land ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Judy Lynne said.

In 2010, the Port Dou­glas har­bour was dredged with a tem­po­rary pipe­line cre­ated to carry the 26,000 cu­bic me­tres of waste ma­te­ri­als to a dis­posal site lo­cated on un­used cane fields.

“This sub­stan­ti­ates claims that there are other so­lu­tions avail­able rather than dump­ing the pol­luted sludge in the reef,” Tan­garoa Blue Ocean Care So­ci­ety Heidi Tay­lor said.

“The scheme seems to be jus­ti­fied on the ba­sis that the cost per vol­ume will act as a de­ter­rent for com­pa­nies to utilise this op­tion, as any vol­ume of ma­te­rial would be costly to dump.

“How­ever, I don’t see how dump­ing any­thing in a world-renowned her­itage ma­rine park can be seen as a good op­tion - it’s lu­di­crous.”

Ms Tay­lor is con­cerned about the po­ten­tial ad­verse im­pacts to aquatic sys­tems of pol­lut­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef due to dump­ing of toxic sed­i­ment.

“We just need to look at the dredg­ing of the Swan River in Perth or the re­cent dredg­ing in Glad­stone and the re­lated dol­phin and fish deaths to see the ef­fects and tox­i­c­ity of the ma­te­ri­als that are be­ing dumped,” she said.

“This com­pletely sends the wrong mes­sage that dump­ing toxic ma­te­rial is okay due to con­ve­nience. Re­al­is­tic, sus­tain­able and en­vi­ron­men­tally- friendly prac­tices need to be re­searched and adopted.”

GBRMPA said in a state­ment that money raised from dis­posal of the dredged ma­te­ri­als would con­trib­ute to the long-term sus­tain­able man­age­ment of the reef.

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