AB­BOT POINT AP­PROVED

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

FRUS­TRATED, up­set and bit­terly dis­ap­pointed.

This is how some Whit­sun­day tourism op­er­a­tors have de­scribed their feel­ings about the Fed­eral Govern­ment ap­proval for the ex­pan­sion and dredg­ing of the coal ter­mi­nal at Ab­bot Point.

“Peo­ple are cry­ing,” Ex­plore Whit­sun­days co-owner Al Grundy said.

On Tues­day af­ter­noon, Fed­eral En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Greg Hunt gave the go-ahead to a new coal load­ing ter­mi­nal worth $3bil­lion at Ab­bot Point, just north of the Whit­sun­day is­lands and coast. The ter­mi­nal, known as Ter­mi­nal 0, will be built by the In­dian com­pany Adani and will ser­vice its Carmichael coal mine in the Galilee Basin.

Mr Hunt also ticked off a dredg­ing pro­gram to shift three mil­lion cubic me­tres of sand from the Ab­bot Point area in preparation for the pro­posed Ter­mi­nal 0 as well as two ad­di­tional ter­mi­nals, 2 and 3.

Mr Hunt said some of the strictest con­di­tions in his­tory had been placed on this project to en­sure any im­pact was avoided, mit­i­gated or off­set.

A to­tal of 95 en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions will have to be met by the pro- ject’s pro­po­nents North Queens­land Bulk Ports (NQBP), who say en­vi­ron­men­tal re­spon­si­bil­ity is one of their core busi­ness val­ues.

While some re­gional busi­nesses have been des­per­ate for the eco­nomic benefits these ap­provals might bring, the place­ment of the dredge spoil in the waters of the Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park has given Whit­sun­day tourism op­er­a­tors grave cause for con­cern.

Just seven weeks ago, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from more than 150 lo­cal tourism busi­nesses formed a group called ‘Busi­nesses United for Reef Pro­tec­tion’ and signed a pledge to pro­tect the Great Bar­rier Reef.

Mem­bers of the group met with Mr Hunt, the Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park Author­ity (GBRMPA) and NQBP to try to ad­dress their con­cerns, par­tic­u­larly about wa­ter qual­ity degra­da­tion.

Now, Mr Grundy says these lo­cal op­er­a­tors feel de­flated and ig­nored.

Whit­sun­day Char­ter Boat In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Tony Brown, who also rep­re­sents the group, said un­cer­tainty was one of the big­gest prob­lems tourism op­er­a­tors now faced.

“How is tourism meant to move for­ward with con­fi­dence?” he asked.

NQBP’s se­nior man­ager for cor­po­rate re­la­tions Mary Steele, how­ever, promised “deep wa­ter off­shore dis­posal of dredge ma­te­rial pro­vides the best so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal out­come”.

“NQBP has car­ried out 22 dredg­ing cam­paigns at our ports since 2002 with­out in­ci­dent,” she said.

Ms Steele said an off­shore dis­posal site had not yet been de­ter­mined and would be se­lected in con­sul­ta­tion with GBRMPA, the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and a Tech­ni­cal Ad­vi­sory Con­sul­ta­tive Com­mit­tee (TACC).

Daw­son MP Ge­orge Chris­tensen de­scribed this out­come as a “win for fact over fear” claim­ing wa­ter qual­ity would ac­tu­ally im­prove.

Like­wise, Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil also is­sued a state­ment de­scrib­ing the Fed­eral Govern­ment’s de­ci­sion as strik­ing “the right bal­ance” be­tween eco­nomic benefits and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns.

Mean­while, Mr Brown and Mr Grundy would not be drawn on ‘where to from here’ but said var­i­ous op­tions were be­ing con­sid­ered.

Lo­cal dive oper­a­tor Tony Fontes says the fight for the reef will now ramp up.

“We may have lost this bat­tle but there will be many more in the fu­ture and the Great Bar­rier Reef is far too pre­cious to lose,” he said.

AP­PROVED: The Ab­bot Point ex­pan­sion was ap­proved this week.

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