Tourism industry troubled by risk to reef at Abbot Pt
AS FEDERAL Environment Minister Mark Butler prepares to make a decision about the expansion and dredging of the coal terminal at Abbot Point, members of the Whitsunday marine tourism industry have come forward to express their concerns.
Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association (WCBIA) president Tony Brown said while Whitsundays Marketing and Development Limited (WMDL) and local MP’s had spoken in support of the project, many marine tourism operators were of a different view.
“We would be the most affected if this project goes ahead and it ends up with an ecological disaster,” he said.
Al Grundy from Explore Whitsundays echoed these concerns.
“While a percentage of the community, particularly in Bowen will be in support of the development of Abbot Point and the dredging of spoil into the sea, I believe that a large percentage of the community does not [support it], particularly here in Airlie Beach [and the] Whitsundays,” he said.
Mr Grundy and Mr Brown both likened supporting the expansion to taking a big risk, particularly when there appeared to be science on both sides of the debate. They asked why, with the port currently operating at only 27 per cent capacity, there was such a rush to develop it to five times its size.
Meanwhile, WMDL CEO Danial Rochford said he understood there were passionate supporters both for and against the expansion.
“As such we put a position forward to the minister that stated that we supported the development, but on the condition that the science must prove that it will not have a detrimental effect on the environment and in particular the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.
Mr Rochford said the expansion of the regions’ resources sector would provide significant economic development and employment growth but he agreed this should not come “at the expense of our environment or community”.
“And of course we are very aware that tourism is a key sector in this region and we will always urge that this kind of development doesn’t impact on this important industry,” he said.
CONCERNED: Deborah Brown (True Blue Sailing), Al Grundy (Explore Whitsundays), Keith Roberts (Whitsunday Catamarans), Richard Walter (Whitsunday Getaways) and Tony Brown (True Blue Sailing and WCBIA president), are all concerned about the impacts of expansion and dredging at Abbot Point on the Whitsundays' marine tourism industry.