Sec­ond Reef Hour to dis­cuss Ab­bot Point

Whitsunday Times - - WHITSUNDAY NEWS AND VIEWS -

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 info@gbrmpa.gov.au.

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.

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