Locals take reef fight to Canberra
WHITSUNDAY tourism operator Tony Brown and chair of the local marine advisory committee Tony Fontes have called on the Federal Government to ban dredging and dumping of spoil in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
The two men have taken their fight to Canberra where they met with ministers and senators this week.
Mr Fontes said the reef and the Whitsunday islands were some of the most beautiful and naturally alluring places in the world, but there was a real concern that water quality could be ruined by the movement of dredge spoil.
“We already have seen the effects from too much dredging and dumping [and] we should be reducing this impact by dumping the material on the land,” he said.
“There’s one reason the government is allowing this to be dumped in the reef’s waters and not on land – special treatment for mining companies wanting to cut their costs.”
Mr Fontes said when the dredging at Abbot Point went ahead, there would be a megacoal port on either side of the Whitsunday islands.
“Why should these compa- nies be able to destroy our sustainable business, that could last forever, for a highly speculative gamble that could result in so much damage”, he said.
The visit to Canberra by Mr Fontes, Mr Brown and Felicity Wishart from the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS), co-incided with the launch of a new court challenge by the Mackay Conservation Group to stop the port expansion at Abbot Point. On Tuesday, a senate inquiry into the management of the reef was also announced.
Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters said the inquiry would examine whether the mounting threats to the reef were being properly managed or whether pressure from the mining industry, driving the unprecedented industrialisation, would see the reef’s demise.
A spokesperson from federal environment minister Greg Hunt’s office said the government approved the Abbot Point project in accordance with national environmental laws and subject to some of the toughest conditions and safeguards in Australian history.
STRAIGHT TO THE TOP: Tony and Beverley Fontes, Felicity Wishart and Tony Brown, have taken their fight for the reef to Canberra this week. Ms Wishart is pictured holding a book compiled of thousands of Australian's stories about the reef.