MP says ‘sorry’ for dredge spoil stance

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

POLITI­CIANS don’t of­ten ad­mit their mis­takes, but this week, Fed­eral Mem­ber for Daw­son, Ge­orge Chris­tensen, has done just that, apol­o­gis­ing to Whit­sun­day tourism op­er­a­tors and res­i­dents for his for­mer stance on the sea dis­posal of dredge spoil from the port of Ab­bot Point.

In an open let­ter to the com­mu­nity, pub­lished as an ad­ver­tise­ment on page 15 of to­day’s Whit­sun­day Times, Mr Chris­tensen ad­mits “I got it wrong”.

“I didn’t fore­see the angst the dump­ing of dredge spoil in the Great Bar­rier Reef ma­rine park would cause tourism op­er­a­tors and the res­i­dents of the Whit­sun­days,” he says.

“If a vi­able op­tion emerges, I will en­sure that the spoil is dumped on land, not at sea.”

Mr Chris­tensen, who fought against the ini­tial pro­posal for sea dump­ing near Hol­bourne Is­land, be­fore back-flip­ping and be­com­ing a staunch sup­porter of off­shore dredge dis­posal, has now done an­other ‘ about-face’, start­ing talks with Ab­bot Point pro­po­nents North Queens­land Bulk Ports (NQBP) about po­ten­tial land-based op­tions.

This may be the third stance Mr Chris­tensen has taken but he prom­ises it will be the last, both to ap­pease the lo­cal com­mu­nity and en­sure the ex­pan­sion of Ab­bot Point will go ahead.

“For all of the Whit­sun­days, Ab­bot Point is go­ing to be an economic boost so I want to see it hap­pen, but I also want to see the tourism in­dus­try at peace and I think the only way for­ward now is to find a land-based op­tion,” he said.

Ini­tial re­ac­tion to Mr Chris­tensen’s change of heart from lo­cal groups has been pos­i­tive.

Spokesper­son for the group Whit­sun­day Res­i­dents Against Dump­ing (WRAD), Paul Jukes, con­grat­u­lated the MP for lis­ten­ing to the com­mu­nity “and for com­ing out with a po­si­tion that’s in favour of the reef and all of the life­styles and liveli­hoods that de­pend on it”.

Like­wise, Whit­sun­day tourism op­er­a­tor Tony Brown de­scribed the push for land man­age­ment as a “win­win”.

“I think the im­por­tant thing is, that in the present sit­u­a­tion there’s no abil­ity to move for­ward for both in­dus­tries [tourism and min­ing], so he’s made a prac­ti­cal de­ci­sion and we ap­plaud him for that,” Mr Brown said.

“It gives the min­ing pro­po­nents the con­fi­dence to move for­ward be­cause it re­leases them from all the cur­rent le­gal chal­lenges and land dis­posal is also a progressive step to­wards re­mov­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef from UNESCO’s World Her­itage Com­mit­tee ‘ in dan­ger’ watch list.”

The Whit­sun­day Times un­der­stands NQBP has a meet­ing next week with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from a com­pany called BDM Re­sources.

BDM Re­sources project con­sul­tant Aaryn Jo­hansen said he be­lieved the com­pany had “a vi­able al­ter­na­tive” for land man­ag­ing dredge spoil. “If the ship turns around so to speak, and they have to re-in­vesti- gate on­shore dis­posal op­tions, we’re of­fer­ing some­thing that wasn’t con­sid­ered be­fore,” he said.

Mr Jo­hansen said the com­pany had al­ready met with the Great Bar­rier Reef Ma­rine Park Au­thor­ity (GBRMPA), “and they were very re­cep­tive to the idea”.

NQBP was not able to re­spond to re­quests for com­ment prior to the dead­line for print yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

HAPPY AND HOPE­FUL: Tony Brown, Jan Clax­ton, Trevor Green, Tony Fontes (back), Cherry Muddle, Al Grundy and Paul Jukes (front), with a copy of Ge­orge Chris­tensen's open let­ter to the com­mu­nity, promis­ing to ad­vo­cate for land man­age­ment of the dredge ma­te­rial from Ab­bot Point.

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