GBRMPA approves dredge spoil to be dumped inside marine park
THE chief authority for the Great Barrier Reef has approved the dumping of three million cubic metres of dredged spoil in the marine park, near Abbot Point.
A statement from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) last Friday confirmed the decision to allow the permit to dump the spoil about 25km north-east of the port, inside the marine park.
The decision has angered environmentalists and Whitsunday tourism operators but it has been welcomed by the coal industry, with the dredging to make way for an expansion of coal export facilities at the port.
GBRMPA chairman Dr Russell Reichelt said he recognised the amount of debate and community concern, but that the approval was in line with the agency's view that any port development should be within the bounds of existing ports.
"As a deepwater port that has been in operation for nearly 30 years, Abbot Point is better placed than other ports along the Great Barrier Reef coastline to undertake expansion as the capital and maintenance dredging required will be significantly less than what would be required in other areas," Dr Reichelt said.
"It's important to note the seafloor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds." The authority said there were 47 new environmental conditions placed on the dumping of the spoil, in addition to many already placed on the project by Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
The approval is the final step in a long line of hurdles for proponents North Queensland Bulk Ports, which have endured several delays in decisions, partly due to the federal election campaign last year.
Rumours of legal action are already circulating, with the Whitsunday community invited to meet at another Reef Hour tonight at 5.30pm and the Whitsunday Sailing Club.
DREDGING APPROVED: The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has approved the dumping on dredge spoil.