Lo­cals de­liver mes­sage to PM

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

LONG be­fore Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott left Can­berra for Hamil­ton Is­land on Satur­day, ru­mours of his planned visit to the Whit­sun­days had reached the main­land.

About 20 lo­cal res­i­dents who have fought against the ex­pan­sion of Ab­bot Point and dump­ing of dredge spoil in the wa­ters of the Great Bar­rier Reef boarded a ferry in the hopes of mak­ing their feel­ings known to Australia’s top politi­cian.

Se­cu­rity around the Prime Min­is­ter’s ar­rival was ex­pect­edly tight and the band of reef cam­paign­ers were by no means as­sured of catch­ing any­thing more than a glimpse.

As luck would have it, a few of them made their way to the bar on One Tree Hill, just over the crest from where Mr Ab­bott launched the ea­gerly an­tic­i­pated Reef 2050 Long Term Sus­tain­abil­ity Plan.

Af­ter his press con­fer­ence Mr Ab­bott was quickly whisked away to the bar, where lo­cals Hay­ley Sestokas and Craig Devlin took full ad­van­tage of this twist of fate.

Mr Devlin handed his mo­bile phone to Daw­son MP Ge­orge Chris­tensen, who cap­tured the mo­ment when Ms Sestokas turned to his boss and said, “Mr Ab­bott, we can’t have a coal in­dus­try and a healthy reef. Which do you choose?”.

“His re­sponse was all very mum­bled,” she said, “con­firm­ing that ‘yes we can’ and that’s why he was here.”

Lo­cal cam­paigner for the Aus­tralian Marine Con­ser­va­tion So­ci­ety, Cherry Mud­dle, said she like the oth­ers had trav­elled to the is­land to show Mr Ab­bott the reef was “priceless”.

“But the fund­ing com­mit­ments don’t re­flect this... the reef's a na­tional trea­sure that gen­er­ates bil­lions, but with­out in­vest­ing bil­lions to help tackle long term threats like cli­mate change, the reef's fu­ture re­mains un­cer­tain,” she said.

For­mer Whit­sun­day Greens can­di­date Tony Fontes, who was also among the group, agreed the Reef 2050 Plan’s ban on cap­i­tal dredge spoil dump­ing was a win not just for the lo­cals but the peo­ple of Australia and the world.

“But there are still some weak­nesses and I guess the two big ones are, one although there is some new money, we need closer to $1 bil­lion over the next five years to truly make this plan work and two, there’s a lack of se­ri­ous ac­tion on cli­mate change, which is the most se­ri­ous threat to the fu­ture health of the reef.

“It’s great to have a plan but I think it’s more of a band aid at the mo­ment,” he said.

TAK­ING A STAND: About 20 lo­cals trav­elled to Hamil­ton Is­land on Satur­day for the Prime Min­is­ter's visit and launch of the Reef 2050 Plan. Pic­tured are: Gil­lian Ken­dall, Christine Carlisle, Bev­er­ley and Tony Fontes, Hay­ley Sestokas, Cherry Mud­dle, Nel­lie Macdon­ald, Max­imus Mar­shall, Ge­orgie Bu­dini, Craig Devlin, Jonathan Peter, Christy Hor­ton, Elsa Evans and Jess Pan­e­gyres (back) and Sylvia Cot­tle, Opal Stern­baum, Paul Jukes, Ste­vie Richards, Joey Prowse and Ann Clut­ter­buck (front).

MINUTE WITH THE PM: Lo­cal res­i­dents Hay­ley Sestokas and Craig Devlin grabbed the op­por­tu­nity for a photo and a few words with Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott on Hamil­ton Is­land's One Tree Hill. Photo cour­tesy Ge­orge Chris­tensen.

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