Pay to pollute our reef sites
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.