As the UNESCO mission draws to a close after investigating impacts of mining infrastructure on the Great Barrier Reef, WWF calls on Minister Burke to place a moratorium on approving new large-scale industrial developments until a comprehensive assessment of environmental impacts has been completed.
While WWF welcomed the federal government’s decision to press the pause button on the massive Abbot Point port development, Minister Burke still needs to demonstrate he is prepared to stand up to big mining interests and delay any large developments until a much clearer plan for the future of the Reef is in place.
“While we welcome the delay on developing the multi-cargo port at Abbot Point and its associated 38 million cubic metres of dredging, we are still concerned that Minister Burke will allow the Great Barrier Reef to be turned into an industrial park and superhighway for coal carriers,” said WWF-Australia Director of Conservation Dr Gilly Llewellyn.
“It is critical that a strategic assessment is undertaken that sets the frame for any further development and provides certainty for threatened species like dugongs, turtles and dolphins, and the seagrass feeding grounds they depend on.
“By pressing the pause button on all large industrial developments until this assessment is done, Minister Burke will demonstrate he is prepared to put certainty for marine wildlife and the World Heritage values of the Reef ahead of business interests.”
The Queensland and Australian Governments have approved, or are in the process of approving, an array of industrial projects right along the Queensland coast. The extra pressures from these developments will add to threats that already exist, such as run-off from farms, out-dated fishing practices and climate change.
And while the federal government recently committed to undertaking a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Reef, WWF is very concerned that the draft terms of reference are weak and that there are provisions for fast-tracking proposals. This could weaken rather than strengthen the regulatory protections in place for the Reef.
WWF is also concerned that a planned review of Australia’s premier environmental law – the EPBC Act – due later this year will result in even less protection for species to make way for the resources boom.
“UNESCO’s visit this week shows that the world is seriously concerned about the way we are managing the Great Barrier Reef,” Dr Llewellyn said.
“Minister Burke needs to show he is prepared to stand up to big mining interests or risk being remembered as the Minister who allowed this globally important natural icon to be turned into an industrial park.”
Dredging Today Staff, March 14, 2012; Image: westernbasinportdevelopment