Con­cern builds over GBR health af­ter dredge ap­proval

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - An­gelique Pat­ter­son

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.


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