The proposed new site for dumping at Abbot Point

MDM_13-09-2014_ROP_10_MKY120914wetlands2_fct696x522x328_t460With a surprising swiftness,  yesterday the new ALP State government announced a New T2 spoil disposal site for the dumping of dredge spoil from Abbot Point. The story and NQCC’s reaction is probably best conveyed by way of the two media releases distributed by NQCC since then. The first release was sent out on Wednesday 11 March – the day of the announcement by Premier Palaszczuk. It reads…

‘North Queensland Conservation Council welcomes the new State government’s early delivery on its commitment not to allow the dumping of dredge spoil from Abbot Point in the Caley Valley Wetlands.

‘We are pleased that the government has announced they will be withdrawing the application submitted by the former government that would have seen environmental damage to the nationally significant Caley Valley wetlands. These are home to tens of thousands of birds, including threatened and migratory species, and a huge potential tourism drawcard,’ said NQCC Coordinator Wendy Tubman.

‘The new proposal is to dump the spoil on land that was to have been a terminal for BHP Billiton. Significantly, that major company pulled out of Abbot Point some time ago because of the poor prospects for the coal industry. 

‘Given that the new site is wedged between the waters of the Great Barrier Reef and the wetlands, it is vital that the proposal be subject to a full environmental impact statement with rigorous scientific assessment.

‘However NQCC fundamentally questions a huge coal port on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage coast and the opening of the Galilee Basin. Both would mean a massive increase in Australia’s contribution to carbon emissions at a time when world leaders and scientists are calling for coal to be left in the ground and when international markets are turning from coal to renewable energy.

‘Given the global and long-term drop in the demand for thermal coal since the expansion of Abbot Point was first considered, a fresh look at the economics of the proposed expansion is essential. So it is important that the Premier has committed to fiscal responsibility in relation to Abbot Point.

‘It is vital that Queensland does not allow dredging and industrial construction on the Great Barrier Reef coast only to see demand for the facility dry up.

‘We also commend the government for reiterating its decision not to fund the dredging and disposal project, and are mindful that it has also committed to not allowing dredging to commence prior to Adani achieving financial closure on the whole project’, Ms Tubman said. ‘Financial closure means that Adani must have in place all the relevant legally binding contracts for off-take agreements, equity-raising and debt financing, insurance hedging, construction and equipment supply for all the elements of the project – including the rail, mine, port, power stations and water supply.’

The second release, distributed on Thursday 12 March, reads:

By giving public support for a proposal before its own assessments have been done, is the new ALP government heading down the same path of conflict of interest and manipulation of process that characterised the previous government?

This is the question being posed by North Queensland Conservation Council (NQCC) in relation to the agreement between the state and the Indian coal-mining giants Adani and GVK announced yesterday by the Premier. The agreement would see dredge spoil dumped at the abandoned BHP terminal site at Abbot Point, between the Great Barrier Reef lagoon and the nationally listed Caley Valley Wetlands.

‘The Premier and Minister Lynham have made it very clear that they expect this to happen, yet the required state environmental assessments have not yet been done,’ NQCC Coordinator Ms Tubman said.

‘The application for the current proposed site should not come from the government. The port at Abbot Point will not be public infrastructure. The application should be lodged by Adani as a multi-user project, as was the case for the rail component of the project, or by GVK, or by a consortium of users. It is essential that the government, as co-assessor, is and is seen to be completely independent and objective when it comes to government environmental assessments.

‘It is totally inappropriate for governments to demonstrate a bias prior to undertaking its assessments. Doing so discourages public servants from being ‘frank and fearless’ in their advice to Ministers and creates deep scepticism about transparency and accountability in the community.’

‘This is exactly the same conflict that was set up between LNP Minister Seeney and assessment staff in the areas under his control when the pop-up idea was to dump in the Caley Valley Wetlands.

‘The new government has jumped too far too quickly in implementing the sensible move away from the Caley Valley Wetland site. It would be appropriate to step back and take a long, cool look at this project in the light of the collapse of the coal industry, the global move away from fossil fuels toward renewables, and the hollowing out of the Queensland economy by mining,’ Ms Tubman said.