Green groups say allowing sludge to be dumped in the Barrier Reef marine park will kill the world icon, while miners are predicting a resource rebirth.
The controversial decision to allow sludge to be dumped off the Great Barrier Reef has environmentalists predicting the death of the icon.
But it has miners anticipating the rebirth of Queensland’s resources sector.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) on Friday approved the dumping of up to three million cubic metres of dredge spoil inside the park’s boundary.
GBRMPA chairman Russell Reichelt says approving North Queensland Bulk Ports’ application to dispose of dredge in the park will help contain development to existing ports, and the reef and seagrass meadows will remain protected.
“It’s important to note the sea floor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds,” Mr Reichelt said.
The approved site is about 25 kilometres east-northeast of the port, while the investigation zone is about 20km to 30km from the area being dredged.
But Green groups say allowing sludge to be dumped in the marine park is a national embarrassment.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society’s Felicity Wishart said coral reefs were at risk as fine sediment in dredge spoil could travel up to 80km.
“There may not be coral reefs immediately where the dumping occurs, but there’s certainly going to be coral reefs within 80km and they’re certainly going to be at risk,” she told AAP.
The GBRMPA says it supports the use of an alternative site if found to be equal to or better for environmental and heritage effects.
The dredge spoils will have to be tested before being dumped offshore.
GBRMPA says testing has shown there are no identified contaminants in the sediments to be dredged.
The dredging is a major component of the Abbot Point port expansion, a project tied up with the development of $28.4 billion of coal reserves in the Galilee Basin.
Greenpeace spokeswoman Louise Matthiesson says the dredging decision puts the reef’s world heritage status at risk and threatens marine life and tourism and fishing industries.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters says it’s shocking the reef will be used as a “rubbish dump” and her party will move laws in federal parliament to ban offshore dumping.
But the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) says GBRMPA should be applauded.
“I’m pleased that GBRMPA has not been swayed by the emotive activists’ campaigns,” chief executive Michael Roche said.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney says the Abbot Point expansion is a crucial step in opening up the resource-rich Galilee Basin.
The QRC says new mines, which go hand in hand with the project, will create 15,000 construction jobs and 13,000 operational positions.
GVK Hancock chief executive Darren Yeates says the dredging permit is a significant step forward for its Galilee coal projects that will create 20,000 jobs and generate more than $40 billion in taxes and royalties.
While there are concerns about the impact on the reef, Environment Minister Greg Hunt says the port expansion is subject to the strictest environmental conditions in Australian history.
North Queensland Bulk Ports spokeswoman Mary Steele says the granting of the permit acknowledges development can coexist alongside sensitive environments “if it’s well managed and we will ensure it is well managed”.