Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from more than 130 Whit­sun­day busi­nesses have signed a pledge to pro­tect the Great Bar­rier Reef – as they await a de­ci­sion on the ex­pan­sion and dredg­ing of the Ab­bot Point coal ter­mi­nal. The group are call­ing them­selves Busi­nesses United f

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

REP­RE­SEN­TA­TIVES from 130 Whit­sun­day busi­nesses have joined forces and signed a pledge to pro­tect the Great Bar­rier Reef.

Their ac­tion comes as Fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Greg Hunt is ex­pected to make a de­ci­sion on the pro­posed ex­pan­sion and dredg­ing of the Ab­bot Point coal ter­mi­nal next month.

The group of con­cerned Whit­sun­day tourism op­er­a­tors, who are call­ing them­selves Busi­nesses United for Reef Pro­tec­tion inc, say no fur­ther dredg­ing or dump­ing of dredge ma­te­rial should be done or ap­proved, un­til there is a full un­der­stand­ing of the cu­mu­la­tive im­pact of past, present and fu­ture events.

They are call­ing for fur­ther sci­en­tific in­ves­ti­ga­tion to be con­ducted by an en­tity that is com­pletely in­de­pen­dent of all stake­hold­ers in­clud­ing the project’s pro­po­nents North Queens­land Bulk Ports (NQBP).

Mem­bers of the group are keen to point out that this is not po­lit­i­cal and they are not en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists or an­tide­vel­op­ment.

“We recog­nise that min­ing is an in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant eco­nomic driver in our econ­omy – what we’re con­cerned about is that wa­ter qual­ity has de­graded in the re­gion over the last decade and some­thing is in­flu­enc­ing that,” said Whit­sun­day Char­ter Boat In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Tony Brown.

While Mr Brown says this is al­ready hav­ing an ef­fect on tourism, Fed­eral Mem­ber for Daw­son Ge­orge Chris­tensen says what is more likely to kill the tourism in­dus­try is the op­er­a­tors’ stance.

“Peo­ple who are us­ing alarmist lan­guage need to think care­fully about that be­cause if this [ap­proval] goes ahead, they might be talk­ing them­selves out of tourism in the long-term,” he said.

None­the­less, Mr Chris­ten- sen says he is happy to fa­cil­i­tate a meet­ing be­tween con­cerned groups and the en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter.

Mean­while, Mr Hunt has promised the gov­ern­ment will care­fully con­sider the mat­ter “and make a de­ci­sion based en­tirely on the mer­its of the is­sue, in ac­cor­dance with the law, whilst re­main­ing very mind­ful on the health of the Great Bar­rier Reef”.

“It is im­por­tant to strike the right bal­ance be­tween main­tain­ing the health of our en­vi­ron­ment while en­cour­ag­ing sta­bil­ity for busi­ness and in­dus­try,” he said.

NQBP chief ex­ec­u­tive Brad Fish said the com­pany was aware of the con­cerns of tourist op­er­a­tors in Air­lie Beach.

He said he be­lieved some of th­ese con­cerns had arisen as a re­sult of re­cent mod­el­ling that was “never de­signed to be used for im­pact as­sess­ment”.

“NQBP has a long and proud his­tory of dredg­ing projects at mul­ti­ple ports along the Queens­land coast. Good en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial out­comes mat­ter to us and we have un­der­taken 19 dredg­ing cam­paigns across all our ports since 1992 with­out any ma­jor en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts,” he said.

TAK­ING A STAND: Shaun Tatam, Ena Ladd, Ken Sharpe, War­ren Ladd, Tony Fontes, Al Grundy, Peter Clax­ton, Trevor Rees, Ben Marsh, Zoe We­in­stein, Iyas Sha­heen, Ruth Grundy, Asher and Kai Telford, Tony and Deb Brown and Linda Wilkin­son (back) and Dave Mol­loy, Jo Ladd, Heidi Ward, Greg Lam­bert, Veron­ica Wal­ter, Gabby Shaw, Kel­lie Brookes, Richard Wal­ter, An­nie Judd, Is­abelle Diebold, He­len Sheehy, Julie Telford, Wayne Abraham and Jess Mey­ers, are rep­re­sen­ta­tives from some of the busi­nesses that have signed a pledge to pro­tect the Great Bar­rier Reef.

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