Second Reef Hour to discuss Abbot Point
THE repercussions of last week’s decision by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to approve expansion and dredging of the coal facility at Abbot Point are continuing to ripple across the Whitsundays.
Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen has called the decision a “win for Bowen”, where relief has spread through the town.
On the other hand, environmental groups are lamenting what they say could be a disaster for the Great Barrier Reef.
Airlie Beach-based diver Tony Fontes of the Order of Underwater Coral Heroes (OUCH) said that with all the recent media attention, “Australia and the world know that the reef is under pressure and the health of the reef is in a decline”.
“And now the government has approved this massive dredging project which will see three million cubic metres of dredge spoil dumped in pristine reef waters just north of the Whitsundays – [it’s] absolutely senseless,” he said.
Also involved are Whitsunday tourism operators who believe water quality could be affected, which would put their livelihoods at risk.
Whitsunday Charter Boat In- dustry Association (WCBIA) president Tony Brown said tourist operators brought $46 million a week to the regional economy with tourism on the reef supporting 63,000 jobs.
“What this decision means to tourism in the Whitsundays is uncertainty for the future and real concerns [about] how UNESCO will view the status as one of the seven natural wonders of the world,” he said.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) will decide on Christmas Eve whether to issue a permit to the Queensland Government-owned North Queensland Bulk Ports, who will take charge of the dredging.
Greenpeace campaigner Louise Matthiesson met with GBRMPA on Monday to ask that the permit be rejected on environmental grounds.
Whitsunday tourism operators are also now calling on GBRMPA to act.
They are encouraging members of the community to email email@example.com.
A second ‘Reef Hour’ has also been organised at the Down Under Bar tonight (Thursday, December 19), from 5-6pm, where representatives from local businesses will address the community with their concerns.