These are undoubtedly the most important ecosystems in Australia, the richest and most diverse. What are we doing to protect them? At present port development is a serious issue on the coast of Queensland with dredge spoil polluting the Great Barrier Reef.
There are six port developments under consideration. Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks Authority, Russell Reichelt has warned that dredging operations pose unacceptable risk to marine life on the reef. Australia had not notified the United Nations World Heritage Commission prior to approval for the Curtis Island, Gladstone development. Dr Fanny Douvere, the World Heritage Maritime Co-ordinator, says Australia’s go-ahead for the Curtis Island development triggered serious concerns at the World Heritage Centre in Paris. A World heritage mission will visit Queensland this year.
The Gladstone Ports Corporation has permission to dredge the harbour boundries which are in the World Heritage area. This will also dramatically increase shipping. The Gladstone port is close to Heron Island the Capricorn Bunker Group of islands which are prime diving and tourist areas. There is clearly a conflict of interest here. Four coal seam gas plants are proposed. Why are we giving precedence to coal seam gas and coal which is generating cO2 and increasing carbon pollution.
Dredging was stopped at Curtis Island while scientists determined the impact on water quality. But its a complex issue and omitted heavy metal contaminants in the original findings. Later results showed aluminium, copper and chromium exceeded safety guidelines at several sites.The fish have been impacted with lesions and eye damage and the Gladstone Ports Corporation must mitigate all reasonable financial losses to existing fishing operators attributable to the development.
When are we going to make the decision to save the reef at all costs?