Concern builds over GBR health after dredge approval
COMMUNITIES along the Great Barrier Reef are up in arms over the approved dumping of dredged spoil in the World Heritage listed site.
Over 75 per cent of people believe the GBR is in worse condition than 10 years ago, according to a Far North Queensland community survey conducted by the Cairns and Far North Environment Centre. The released results of the What is the future
of our Reef? survey, taken by almost 850 people in Cairns and surrounding areas, revealed that people are concerned about the future of the Reef.
Issues of concern included climate change, commercial shipping, poaching of wildlife, indus- trial chemical pollution, farm pesticide, sediment pollution due to erosion, marine debris, over- fishing and construction of ports and dredging.
CAFNEC marine programs coordinator Josh Coates said overall the survey results paint a picture of a community concerned by the current state of the reef and its future.
‘‘One of the stand out results of the survey was the high level of community concern regarding the Cairns Shipping Development proposal. The public outcry regarding the recent decision on Abbot Point dredging and dumping foreshadows public protest and community opposition to the larger scale dredging proposed in the Cairns Shipping Development Project,’’ he said.
‘‘The local community is right to be concerned about Trinity Inlet dredging and other impacts on our reef and coastline. If we lose our healthy environment we lose our tourism industry, fisheries and ultimately our own health and wellbeing there is a lot at stake here.’’
While the survey highlights communities’ concerns, only 21 per cent of respondents are affiliated with the tourism industry. Poseidon skipper and Oak Beach Productions photographer David Miller said from his perspective and experience of diving on the GBR since 1988, he has seen nothing but improvements off the coast of Port Douglas at the Agincourt Reefs.
‘‘I’ve got a fair idea of what healthy reefs look like and it’s great off of Port Douglas but considering we are adjacent to World Heritage rainforest we haven’t had that much human influence compared to other areas,’’ he said.
‘‘Dredging is a huge problem and will pose a lot of problems. Last year I went to the islands off Mackay for a dive survey around the reefs at Saint Bees and Keswick Islands and I noticed a build-up of silt on the beautiful coral around those two islands.
‘‘It’s only anecdotal but all the big ships anchor off Mackay and drag their anchors in tides, causing huge silt build up.’’
Mr Miller said whether dredging at Abbot Point or Trinity Inlet, any dumping of dredge material will cause problems, highlighting cur- rent issues of Gladstone.
‘‘In Gladstone there’s been some heavy metals lying dormant for so long and when dredging started it disturbed the heavy metal and caused a few problems with the marine life. I’m not a scientist but reading about this and seeing first-hand the silt build-up of areas adjacent to shipping activity off Mackay, I would say it’s a big concern,’’ he said.
‘‘We need to keep it clean, there are other aspects out of our hands like climatic changes, but it’s pollution we have to get a grip on and as a community help repair the Reef.’’
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority have acted independently in making the decision to allow the dumping of 3 million cubic metres of spoil in reef waters as part of coal terminal expansion plans at Abbot Point, north of Bowen. The plan was approved prior by federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt with conditions, but GBRMPA had the final say.
The Coalition government has come out saying the project is subject to the highest and strictest environmental standards and conditions in Australian history, around $89million will be contributed to the health of the GBR through programs such as the Reef Trust and the total volume of 3 million cubic metres is less than one-twelfth the size of the proposal backed by Labor.
CAFNEC encourage the community get involved protecting the environment.