Conservation groups have blasted the federal government’s decision to approve the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion at a protest in Brisbane on Wednesday.
And some in the tourism industry have voiced concern about the port development, saying they are unsure about the impact on their sector, which relies on the Great Barrier Reef.
A small but vocal crowd theatrically poured “waste” over protesters wearing masks depicting federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, mining magnate-turned-Fairfax MP Clive Palmer and fellow mining magnate Gina Rinehart.
They were protesting the dredging associated with the development, which they say will pollute the reef.
The port expansion has won the support of the resources industry and the Queensland state government.
Australian Marine Conservation Society Great Barrier Reef campaign manager Felicity Wishart said she was concerned about the dredging and subsequent soil dumping associated with the expansion.
“There are possibilities for dumping it on land where it is more environmentally appropriate than in the waters,” she said.
“It would create jobs and it would be an alternative option.
“It seems the mining interests that are proposing this want to go with the cheapest and the fastest option, and that’s just to dump it on the reef.”
Some in the tourism industry are also concerned.
Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry president Tony Brown said he was disappointed with the approval of the project and unsure what impact it would have on his industry.
“Obviously we’re disappointed because there are genuine concern shown in the strategic assessment in regards to the sea pumping as an option,” he said.
“…It’s a little bit at odds with what we hoped would happen.”
Mr Brown, who was not in Brisbane for the protest, told Fairfax Media it was too soon to determine how the development would affect tourism in the Whitsundays.
“There’s a lot of talk about how it’s good for [mining company] Adani and others and the certainty for them going forward, but the counter to that is that it creates, for us, uncertainty,” he said.
“We don’t really know what, if any, impacts will occur and that’s something that will only really be revealed in time.”
Mr Brown said he was yet to study the conditions of the project’s approval.
“We presumed this was going to happen, but we did hope – and we’re still trying to get around this – but we’re hoping within the conditions there will be some protection to the Whitsundays.”
Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said Tuesday’s approval of both Abbot Point and Arrow’s Curtis Island liquefied natural gas facility would be a boost to the state’s coal and coal seam gas industries.
“We welcome this common-sense decision from the Commonwealth government that will encourage growth in Queensland’s resources sector and underpin future jobs in the coal and coal seam gas sector,” he said in a statement.
“Australia’s longest and most comprehensive assessment process has produced some of the strictest environmental conditions in Australia’s history.
“That is only right and proper given that we are protecting Australia’s and Queensland’s most important asset, the Great Barrier Reef.”
Mr Seeney rejected criticism the port expansion would harm the reef.
“The amount of dredging that will take place at Abbot Point under this process is one-tenth of that proposed by the former Labor government,” he said.
“Labor would have allowed up to 35 million cubic metres of dredging, under the Newman Government’s environmentally responsible plan, just 3 million cubic metres will take place.”
Press Release, December 11, 2013