QRC: Progress on GBR Future Welcomed (Australia)
The peak representative body for Queensland minerals and energy exporters has welcomed the release overnight by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) of a draft decision on current and future management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage property.
Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche congratulated the Australian and Queensland governments for their work to date in progressing a holistic long-term plan for conservation of the Great Barrier Reef’s outstanding universal values.
“It is of note that despite scaremongering by environmental activists that next month’s World Heritage Committee meeting would declare the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park ‘in danger’, the draft decision welcomes the progress made to date,” Mr Roche said.
The WHC also welcomed the release of a Reef Scientific Consensus Statement in 2013 that states:
“Declining marine water quality, influenced by terrestrial runoff, is recognised as one of the most significant threats to the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef. Management of this issue will improve ecosystem resilience to other pressures including those associated with a changing climate.”
The Consensus Statement goes on to say that that compared with terrestrial runoff, the impacts of ports and shipping are ‘relatively small’.
In relation to future port management along 2,300 kilometres of coastline adjacent to the marine park, Mr Roche said the Cumulative Impact Assessment prepared by Abbot Point coal terminal expansion proponents had created a scientific benchmark to inform government decision-makers.
“The comprehensive approach of detailing and accumulating multiple environmental impacts of port expansions gave the Federal Environment Minister the scientific evidence he needed to approve the proposal with strict conditions,” he said.
“The Abbot Point assessment included a study on options for the removal of sediment from the site of the proposed terminal expansion.
“It concluded that underwater relocation in a like environment some 40 kilometres distant from the reef would minimise environmental impacts.”
Mr Roche said almost 80 percent of Queensland’s resources and agricultural exports moved through established ports adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, and were worth $40 billion in 2011-12.
“Ecologically sustainable development is essential to the well-being of the reef and the Australian economy and what we are seeing in this draft decision is the encouragement of the international community to keep working towards that goal,” he said.
However, Mr Roche said he was surprised at the draft decision comments about the work of the Federal and Queensland Governments towards a bilateral agreement on environmental approvals.
“Such a bilateral agreement is about removing unnecessary duplication of processes, but will not in any way result in a lowering of the standard of environmental safeguards,” he said.
Press Release, May 1, 2014