Abbott Point 1

Image 1Hi, and welcome to the first regular (weekly?) update on NQCC’s challenge to the Abbot Point dumping decision – that’s the one whereby GBRMPA gave a permit to North Queensland Bulk Ports (NQBP) to dump 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil in the GBR Marine Park of Abbot Point as part of a proposal to turn Abbot Point into the world’s biggest coal export facility.

So… while it might seem as if it’s been ‘all quiet on the eastern front’ in relation to the case, the reality is that there’s been a lot of activity backstage (to mix metaphors).

First up, although the decision to allow the dumping was actually made by a delegate in GBRMPA, responsibility has reverted to the Minister, so it’s now NQCC v Minister Hunt himself. The challenge is under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 and will be heard in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (Brisbane).

And others have joined the action. At the very last minute, before the first hearing on April 23, NQBP applied to join the case.

Then, earlier this month, the Whitsundays-based BURP (Businesses United in Reef Protection) joined the case, while AMPTO (the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators) also filed a challenge to the dumping under the Marine Park Act, which will be heard in the Federal Court. And then, of course there is the Mackay Conservation Group challenging the dredging in the Federal Court.

But back to NQCC and our challenge. We have received vast quantities of documents – under FOI (public), through the Tribunal (at this stage confidential) and by the parliamentary process of OPD (Order to Provide Documents) (public). There will (soon) also be documents on the AAT site.

Our legal team from EDO, NQCC legal campaigner Jeremy Tager and Coordinator Wendy have been ploughing enthusiastically through tens of thousands of pages, identifying issues and putting together the arguments for our solicitors and barristers – more of them later.

As we identify the issues that need to be argued in the Tribunal, we have identified and approached expert witnesses, who will address the specific issues in the Tribunal – more of them later too.

From the get-go, it became clear that NQBP was unlikely to use the approved site (the ‘Catalina’ site), so one of the first things NQCC did was to apply to have the full hearing deferred until such time as NQBP had actually decided on and had had approved (by the Minister) an alternative dump site. We saw no point in wasting the time of the Tribunal or our GetUp! and Fight for the Reef raised funds (or the funds of the NQBP – after all they are owned by the state, US!). The minister accepted our application.

Not surprisingly, NQBP opposed it – only to withdraw this opposition within 5 hours of the 23 May scheduled deliberation of the matter in the Tribunal.

So, the next hearing will be on 22 August. In the meantime, work on sharpening our case continues unabated. In future blogs we will provide as much information as we can on angles to our case, the legal issues, witnesses, the legal team.

Until then!

(Photo: NQCC Coordinator Wendy Tubman and the only resident of Abbot Point, Tub Wilson, discuss the future of the site. Photographer: Peter Jones)