Australia approves plan to dump dredge spoil in Barrier Reef

January 31, 2014
Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority approves the dumping of up to three million cubic metres of dredge material within the park's boundaries

Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on Friday approved the dumping of up to three million cubic metres of dredge waste in park waters in a move blasted by environmentalists.

The decision follows the government giving the green light to a major coal port expansion for India's Adani Group on the reef coast in December, under some of the strictest-ever environmental conditions.

It will see Adani dredge three million cubic metres of material from the seabed to allow freighters to dock at the port in Abbot Point, lifting the facility's capacity by 70 percent to make it one of the world's largest coal ports.

Conservationists warned it could hasten the demise of the World Heritage-listed reef, which is already considered to be in "poor" health, with dredging smothering corals and seagrasses and exposing them to poisons and elevated levels of nutrients.

The reef is already facing pressures from climate change, land-based pollution and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks.

"This is a sad day for the reef and anyone who cares about its future," said WWF Great Barrier Reef campaigner Richard Leck.

"The World Heritage Committee will take a dim view of this decision, which is in direct contravention of one of its recommendations."

Graphic on the dredge dumping plan in the Great Barrier Reef marine park which was approved by Australian authorities on Friday.

The reef is facing a World Heritage downgrade from UNESCO this year due to concerns about rampant coastal development proposed in the region, particularly port, gas and coal operations. UNESCO are due to meet in June, when they are expected to discuss the issue.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) chairman Russell Reichelt said he recognised there was intense community concern and debate about the application by North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation to dispose of dredge spoil in the park.

But he said allowing the project to proceed would help contain development to existing ports, and the reef itself and seagrass meadows would still be protected.

"This approval is in line with the agency's view that port development along the Great Barrier Reef coastline should be limited to existing ports," he said.

"It's important to note the sea floor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds."

The GBRMPA, whose board is currently under investigation for its links to the mining industry, added that the strict imposed on the project by the federal government would help protect the reef.

The conditions require that sediment entering the be reduced by 150 percent over the long term—a "net benefit" to water quality—and that $81 million be contributed to reef conservation programmes and specific measures observed to protect marine flora and fauna.

WWF Australia has said the material dredged during the port expansion would be enough to fill 150,000 dump trucks that "lined up bumper-to-bumper would stretch from Brisbane to Melbourne", a distance of more than 1,000 kilometres (620 miles).

Explore further: Coal port plan will kill Great Barrier Reef: activists

Related Stories

Australia approves major coal port expansion on reef

December 10, 2013

Australia gave the green light to a major coal port expansion for India's Adani Group on the Great Barrier Reef coast Tuesday under what were described as some of the nation's strictest-ever environmental conditions.

Campaign to save Barrier Reef from industry

April 28, 2013

Conservationists accused Australia of failing to protect the Great Barrier Reef from massive industrial development as they launched a multi-million dollar campaign to drum up awareness.

Australia failing UNESCO demands on Barrier Reef

February 1, 2013

Australia insisted Friday that protecting the Great Barrier Reef was a top priority, but conservationists WWF said not enough had been done to prevent UNESCO deeming it a world heritage site "in danger".

Great Barrier Reef heading for danger: UNESCO

June 2, 2012

UNESCO on Saturday urged decisive action from Australia to protect the Great Barrier Reef from a gas and mining boom, warning it risked being put on its list of world heritage sites deemed "in danger".

Recommended for you

'Smoke rings' in the ocean spotted from space

December 11, 2017

Researchers from the University of Liverpool have spotted the equivalent of smoke-rings in the ocean which they think could 'suck-up' small marine creatures and carry them at high speed and for long distances across the ocean.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Jan 31, 2014
What a stupid idea. You won't hear about this in WA. It's not even an issue here.

Government threatens to destroy GBR, no one bats an eye. One shark is caught on a hook off WA and everyone loses their minds. I give up.
not rated yet Jan 31, 2014
OZGuy, please, feel free to tell me where I was wrong... Instead of just 1/5 me.

And while you're there, explain to us how this a good thing for the reef. Well, I'm waiting.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Jan 31, 2014
I'm just curious.... Why can't they just dump it somewhere else?
not rated yet Jan 31, 2014
Yeah, exactly. It's in a marine park some distance from the reef, apparently. But still, they don't think water moves around.
The Shootist
1 / 5 (2) Feb 01, 2014
Environmentalists are so like spoiled children who have to have their way. And nearly as ignorant as well
5 / 5 (1) Feb 01, 2014
By the time we develop a new energy technology to replace dirty coal/oil, there will be nothing left to enjoy in our world when (if?) we become an enlightened species.

Approving this and Keystone are like the enabling family to crack addicts

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.