Skip to main content

Australia to dump dredged sand in Great Barrier Reef Park

By Euan McKirdy, for CNN
January 31, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
A clownfish swims in the Great Barrier Reef, a diverse ecosystem stretching 2,300 kilometers (1,429 miles) along the Queensland coast of Australia. A plan has been approved by the Australian government to dump 3 million cubic meters of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The proposal gained final approval by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and is subject to "strict conditions." A clownfish swims in the Great Barrier Reef, a diverse ecosystem stretching 2,300 kilometers (1,429 miles) along the Queensland coast of Australia. A plan has been approved by the Australian government to dump 3 million cubic meters of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The proposal gained final approval by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and is subject to "strict conditions."
HIDE CAPTION
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority approves plan to dump millions of tons of dredge spoil
  • Waste material will come from the expansion of a coal port
  • Environmental groups decry decision

(CNN) -- The Australian federal government has approved a plan to dump 3 million cubic meters of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Park. The dredged material will come from the proposed expansion of the coal port at Abbot Point, south of Townsville on the Queensland coast.

Final approval came from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and is subject to "strict conditions." The proposal, while controversial and opposed by environmental groups including Greenpeace, had already been approved by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt last month.

Tony Abbott's government has come under fire for a raft of environmental decisions lately, including an election pledge to rescind expansion of Tasmania's World Heritage-listed forest reserve which has united environmental campaigners and the forestry industry, who see the plan as unworkable and damaging in the long term.

The reef is the largest living structure on the planet, and is a hugely diverse ecosystem stretching 2,300 kilometers along the Queensland coast. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is 345,000 square kilometers in size and home to thousands of species of coral, fish, molluscs, jellyfish, sharks and whales.

A statement released by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said the proposal was in line with directives to limit development of ports on the coast to existing facilities.

"As a deepwater port that has been in operation for nearly 30 years, Abbot Point is better placed than other ports along the Great Barrier Reef coastline to undertake expansion as the capital and maintenance dredging required will be significantly less than what would be required in other areas," said Dr Russell Reichelt, Authority Chairman.

"It's important to note the seafloor of the approved disposal area consists of sand, silt and clay and does not contain coral reefs or seagrass beds."

The Authority's General Manager for Biodiversity, Conservation and Sustainable Use, Bruce Elliot echoes the statement, saying that the environmental safeguards -- 47 in total -- insisted upon by the Authority would protect the reef and seagrasses, along with the social and heritage uses of the marine park.

"By granting this permit application with rigorous safeguards, we believe we are able to provide certainty to both the community and the proponent while seeking to ensure transparent and best practice environmental management of the project," he said.

The plan has attracted widespread criticism and WWF Australia spokesman Richard Leck said the approval from the marine park authority marked a "sad day for the reef and anyone who cares about its future."

The Great Barrier Reef was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981 and environmental group Greenpeace warned that the move to allow dumping in the park may lead to that organization listing the site as "in danger" this year.

"This go-ahead for dumping is one more body blow for the Reef which further threatens marine life, its World Heritage status and Australia's tourism and fishing industries," Greenpeace Reef Campaigner Louise Matthiesson said on the group's website.

"Green lighting the reef's destruction makes a mockery of the Authority's charter which obliges it to protect the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the World Heritage Area."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 21, 2014 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT