‘I GOT IT WRONG’
MP says ‘sorry’ for dredge spoil stance
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.