Bat­tle continues over Great Bar­rier Reef

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

THE bat­tle over the Great Bar­rier Reef and dredg­ing at the coal port of Ab­bot Point is con­tin­u­ing to take twists and turns with a court chal­lenge and a State Govern­ment coun­ter­cam­paign both launched in the past week.

Funded by a raft of pub­lic do­na­tions, the North Queens­land Con­ser­va­tion Coun­cil has of­fi­cially filed an Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ap­peal Tri­bunal against the Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park Author­ity (GBRMPA) over its ap­proval of the dredg­ing project.

Jo-Anne Bragg from the En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fend­ers Of­fice of Queens­land said the case would ar­gue the ap­proval of the dump­ing of three mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of dredge spoil was not given ac­cord­ing to the author­ity's own cri­te­ria for sea dump­ing.

While the author­ity did not re­spond, the pro­po­nent of the port ex­pan­sion, North Queens­land Bulk Ports (NQBP), hit out at the le­gal chal­lenge.

A spokes­woman for NQBP said it was "in­cred­i­bly dis­ap­point­ing" that in­ter­est groups had used do­na­tions on the case, rather than spend­ing that money "on the real is­sues im­pact­ing the reef".

Mean­while, the Queens­land Govern­ment has launched a cam­paign against "mis­in­for­ma­tion" on the reef, which has drawn the sup- port of the re­sources in­dus­try and ire of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Andrew Pow­ell launched the "Reef Facts" cam­paign on Sun­day, say­ing "false and ex­treme claims" about the state of the reef could dam­age Queens­land's rep­u­ta­tion if they were not ad­dressed.

The cam­paign in­cludes a web­site and sev­eral fact sheets which re­it­er­ate some threats to the reef's en­vi­ron­ment in­clud­ing sed­i­ment run-off, crown of thorns starfish and cli­mate change.

Queens­land Re­sources Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael Roche has wel­comed the cam­paign, say­ing the state's rep­u­ta­tion was "be­ing trashed by ac­tivists" in­tent on stop­ping coal and gas ex­ports.

He said the "re­lent­less de­mon­i­sa­tion of es­sen­tial dredg­ing" not only ig­nored the sci­en­tific ev­i­dence, but also threat­ened the fu­ture of the re­sources in­dus­try he rep­re­sents.

But Aus­tralian Ma­rine Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety reef cam­paigner Felic­ity Wishart said the govern­ment's new cam­paign was it­self "mis­in­for­ma­tion".

She said if the govern­ment was pro­tect­ing the reef, "they wouldn't need a cam­paign to al­lay the pub­lic's fears over dredg­ing, dump­ing and port ex­pan­sion".

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