Australia Needs to Choose Between Industrialization Versus Need to Protect and Preserve Great Barrier Reef – Marine Biologist

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | March 18, 2013 2:35 PM EST

As an old adage goes, one cannot serve two masters. One has to be abandoned while one has to be pursued. And in the case of Australia, it's either it chooses to push through with the coal-related development projects in Queensland or push through saving and protecting the Great Barrier Reef. Bottomline, only one objective may be pursued.

"There is an inherent incompatability between large scale industrial development and the qualities of the Reef that Australians have come to know and love," Professor Callum Roberts, a marine expert, said. Professor Roberts is currently in Australia to deliver the keynote speech at the 4th Thomas Conservation Oration at the University of Sydney on Monday night.

"There's a tough choice ahead. You either have the reef or you have the industrial development. It's very hard to have (and maintain) both."

Australia's management of the Great Barrier Reef is currently on the hot seat as the UNESCO threatened in 2012 the natural wonder risks losing the World Heritage status because of the country's insufficient systems and policies to save and protect the great reef amid the hustling industrial activity in its host state, Queensland.

"We're seeing a major push towards industrialisation of the Queensland coast for the construction of ports and harbours, particularly coal export facilities," Mr Roberts told AAP.

"With something as sensitive as the Great Barrier Reef, you have to ask yourself what is it you want in the long term?"

"Do you want those ports or do you want the Great Barrier Reef to continue being great, because you can't have both."

In February, UNESCO demanded from Australia a detailed plan of action as to how it plans to improve the management and protection of the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian federal government noted both it and the state government of Queensland are taking cautious approaches as to how to pursue economic-related developments at both inside and adjoining the reef.

But Australian environmentalists believe otherwise, noting they won't be anymore surprised if the Great Barrier Reef eventually loses it World Heritage status.

"The Australian and Queensland governments have continued to treat the Reef like a coal and gas highway and a rubbish tip for dredge spoil and deserve a fail mark from UNESCO," Greens Senator Larissa Waters earlier said.

She claimed both federal and state governments continued to pursue new or expanded coal and gas ports, hasn't declared pristine Port Alma and its indigenous dolphins off-limits and hasn't done independent studies into the Gladstone Harbour fish and wildlife disease disaster, among others.

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