The Senate hearing into the Reef, the Townsville part of which was held last Wednesday (see NQCC’s front page story), could hardly have happened without reference to Abbot Point.
While NQCC chose to focus on other issues associated with Reef management, it featured in the comments of many others giving evidence.
Jamie Oliver, Research Director with the Australian Institute of Marine Science, told the Senators that AIMS had found deficiencies in the marine modelling done on behalf of the proponents for Abbot Point, and that the process of EISs needed review.
Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at JCU, pulled no punches, saying that recent GBRMPA permits should be revoked and sea dumping of dredge spoil banned. He provided to the Senators a copy of a recent paper by JCU scientist Kathy Burns, which demonstrates the now wide distribution of coal dust across the reef and continental shelf.
Jon Brodie, Chief Research Scientist, Centre for Tropical Water & Aquatic Ecosystem Research at JCU, was no less strong when it came to Abbot Point, describing the offset conditions imposed as part of the approval as ‘a farce’. He also noted that the Multi-Criteria Analysis undertaken to identify the best option for spoil disposal was dominated by the coal and port industries and pro-development government representatives. He told Senators that Abbot Point had been subjected to the ‘quickest, cheapest and dirtiest’ solution and that the advice of very competent GBRMPA staff had been ignored.
At a general level, many witnesses spoke of the failure to implement the precautionary principle embedded within the environmental legislation in relation to the uncertainty that surrounds Abbot Point – not the least of which is the lack of a definite site for the dumping of the dredge spoil.
The full record will be in Hansard in a few days time and we will post a link as soon as it is available.
Earlier this month, the media were ablaze with the findings of a recent paper that links dredging and dumping with coral disease. While based on research undertaken in Western Australia, the paper has obvious implications for Abbot Point.
And just yesterday (July 24) the 51st Annual Meeting of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation, meeting in Cairns, put out a media release on behalf of 589 of the world’s experts in tropical biology and conservation from 55 nations calling on the Australian government to ‘think again’ about the extended port development at Abbot Point, especially in relation to sea dumping and the cost and achievability of the offsets conditions.
And finally, you may have heard that the Australian Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) has withdrawn from its challenge in relation to the dumping under the GBRMP Act. See their media release here. The AMPTO decision is not related to the NQCC challenge – and, rest assured, we have absolutely no intention of withdrawing and will be ready and rearing to go as soon as the Tribunal sets the timetable for the full hearing.
In the meantime, we continue to pore over documents, fine-tune our arguments and identify experts for the proceedings.
In the meantime, thank you all for you ongoing support. And thanks to Senator Anne McEwen, who chaired the Senate hearing on Reef management in Townsville for her email message “Best wishes for the NQCC’s ongoing campaign to protect the Reef” and her comment that it was great to see all those passionate people at the rally.