Marine tourism operators have threatened legal action against the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) over its decision to endorse a proposal allowing the dumping of dredging spoil inside the marine park.
Outraged by a decision to allow nearly 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil to be dumped in the reef’s marine park area, they have threatened to appeal this decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and take it to court if necessary.
Australian Environment minister Greg Hunt gave the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation his approval to dredge the harbour at Abbot Point near Bowen in December last year.
But the final approval for the project came yesterday when it was signed off by the GBRMPA.
Colin McKenzie, president of the Association of Marine Park Tour Operators – the industry’s peak lobby group has declared that his group may take legal action to stop the dumping. Mr McKenzie says it appears that the Authority members ‘have lost their marbles’.
“The final authority had to be issued by the Authority. They had the ability to say no. The principal objective of the act is to provide long term protection and conservation of the environment, biodiversity and heritage value of the Great Barrier Reef region,” he said.
“Now how the hell can the organisation responsible for ensuring that act is adhered to then allow anybody to go and dump millions of tonnes of rubbish on the Barrier Reef every year? That is just ridiculous.”
The GBRMPA has demanded a number of safeguards, including a limit to the amount of waste dumped per year, and in total, however Mr McKenzie says the authority is pushing “a snowjob.”
According to Mr McKenzie, over the past four years, the amount of silt going out onto the reef has been reduced by 360,000 tonnes, but “now we are going to let a mining company go out there and dump 2.3 million tonnes every year”.
“My guess is that it is going to reduce visibility in the Whitsundays even further, it is going to seriously stress all the corals in the region,” he remarked, saying the real concern to his members was not knowing how badly the dumping was going to affect the Barrier Reef.
Rallies have been organised around the country, with thousands expected to turn up in defence of this world heritage site.
“I was utterly outraged when I saw the news that our precious environment was going to be exploited this way, yet again, for the sake of profit,” said Sydney organiser Evan Van Zijl.
“I decided right away that I needed to get active on this issue and show the government that we weren’t going to take this lying down”
The Sydney rally takes place this Saturday, 1pm at Town Hall.
Similar events were held around Australia last weekend, protesting the WA government’s decision to cull sharks. Thousands of people turned up to show their outrage at this act, what many regard as a giant step backward in environmental policy.