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The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority okayed plans to dump 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil from the Abbott Point coal terminal expansion into the Great Barrier Reef. Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved the plan in January for the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation to dredge the harbour at Abbott Point.
However, the authority has imposed almost 50 conditions, while Colin McKenzie, president of the Association of Marine Park Tour Operators, is threatening to file a lawsuit against the authority over the decision.
Among the conditions are limits on when the spoil could be dumped, the requirement to have a long-term water quality monitoring plan and payment for commercial fishers if there would be adverse effect of the dumping on their livelihood.
According to authority spokesman Bruce Elliot, the dump site would consist of sand, silt and clay, but would not have coral or seagrass. He said the materials are very similar in composition to what is in the area being dredged.
Russell Richeit, chairman of the authority, attributed the opposition to the project to misconceptions about the reef, with many people thinking it is about the size of Hyde Park in Sydney or like other national parks found on land, when it is the size of the Australian states of Victoria and Tasmania combined or 50 per cent bigger than New Zealand.
But Greens Senator Larissa Waters questioned the ability of the authority to ensure the conditions will be followed.
YouTube/The Australian Greens
Mr McKenzie pointed out that 1.3 million cubic metres of dredging spoils is actually 2.3 million tonnes of rubbish that would be dumped on the reef.
"We have, over the last four years, been able to reduce the silt going out onto the reef by 360,000 tonnes. And we've spent $200 million doing it. Now we are going to let a mining company go out there and dump 2.3 million tonnes every year," Mr McKenzie said, quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald.
However, Mr Reichelt countered that Abbott Point, as a deepwater port in operation for almost 30 years, is better placed than other ports along the Great Barrier Reef coastline to undertake expansion because the capital and maintenance dredging needed will be significantly less than what would be required in other areas.