The Australian Marine Conservation Society has today called on the Federal Minister for Environment, Greg Hunt, to ensure that the Independent Commission of Inquiry into dredging at Gladstone Harbour investigates serious allegations of cronyism and corruption of process.
AMCS Great Barrier Reef campaign director Felicity Wishart said: “We welcome the Minister’s announcement of the Inquiry and urge him to make it broad enough to address all the issues surrounding the alarming health and environmental problems that emerged in Gladstone Harbour following major dredging and construction in 2011.”
“The Inquiry must investigate allegations of a cover-up of enormous proportions,” she said.
“Concerns we hold include allegations of:
– Concealing the results of heavy metal contamination and toxic algal blooms;
– False and misleading reports on the turbidity levels in the Harbour;
– Lowering of Water Quality standards by government agencies;
– Regular breaches of environmental conditions;
– Failure to report breaches;
– Failure to prosecute known environmental breaches.
“These concerns go beyond the recently revealed failures about the construction and leaking of the bund wall built to hold millions of tonnes of dredged material.
“We are left wondering who was involved in this environmental debacle and how much it was deliberate intent, incompetence or turning a blind eye.
“Whatever the truth, it is vital that all the failures of the Gladstone Harbour story are thoroughly investigated. The bund wall is only one part of a bigger picture.
“No one who cares about the Great Barrier Reef can rest easy until the allegations of cronyism and corruption of process are resolved and those responsible are held to account.
“Further port expansion, dredging and dumping is being approved right now.
“And right now, we have the same laws, the same government processes and the same culture of disregard for the Reef that saw millions of tonnes of dredging and the construction of massive gas processing plants in a World Heritage Area, followed by sick and dying fish, dugongs and turtles.
“There should be no further industrial development on the Reef until the lessons from Gladstone are well and truly learnt,” Ms Wishart said.
Press Release, January 23, 2014