Ball in feds' court over Great Barrier Reef plan

THE Queensland government will introduce legislation next month to restrict port development in Great Barrier Reef waters to existing ports, following the submission of its Abbot Point port and wetland strategy to the federal government for approval.
Ball in feds' court over Great Barrier Reef plan Ball in feds' court over Great Barrier Reef plan Ball in feds' court over Great Barrier Reef plan Ball in feds' court over Great Barrier Reef plan Ball in feds' court over Great Barrier Reef plan

Shiploader landing at Abbot Point.

Anthony Barich

Queensland Deputy Premier and State Development, Planning and Infrastructure Minister Jeff Seeney assured the public that nearby wetlands would be preserved and even “enhanced” for the benefits of locals and visitors to north Queensland as part of the state government’s plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef while developing the port and major coal projects.

Pending Commonwealth approval under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999, construction work on the onshore area will start next January, enabling dredging to start by March.

Seeney said the government had scaled back Labor’s plan to dredge 38 million tonnes of material from channels at Abbot Point to 3Mt.

The Abbot Point port and wetland strategy will:

  • Help protect the reef by placing dredge material from port expansion in a defined onshore area rather than at sea
  • Secure the future of the port by beneficially reusing dredged material for future development
  • Improve the wetlands by preserving and enhancing their ecological value and implementing long-term management plans
  • Clearly delineate the boundary between port industry land and wetland protection areas via a rail embankment.

Seeney said he expected opposition to development of any type from some of the environmental community but was adamant that “most Queenslanders would see this as a breakthrough strategy that offers a much-needed alternative to sea disposal of dredge material”

“Since our election in 2012 we have worked hard to develop a plan that eases Queenslanders concerns about offshore disposal of dredge material and allows for the sustainable development of a world-class port to support Queensland’s resources sector,” Seeney said.

“We are confident that, if approved by the Commonwealth, we can have state-owned land ready to receive dredge material for when licensed dredging activity begins next March.”

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