In its first public comments about the approval of dumping dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the UN says it regrets the decision.
Queensland’s government is confident the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park won’t lead to the reef being listed as a World Heritage site in danger.
UNESCO says it regrets the federal government’s decision to allow dumping three million tonnes of spoil in the park as part of the expansion of Abbot Point coal port near Bowen.
The UN body regrets that the government approved the dumping without properly assessing alternatives.
This was one of a number of points sent in a draft report on Wednesday to the World Heritage Committee which is assessing whether to list the reef on its “in danger” list.
The body requested the federal government provide a new report detailing how dumping is the least damaging option that won’t affect the reef’s value.
State Environment Minister Andrew Powell says all alternatives were considered and it’s just a matter of passing this information onto UNESCO.
“A lot of work was done which showed it would be inappropriate to put the spoil on land due to acidification,” he told AAP on Thursday.
“We will certainly be making information available to UNESCO on that project and any other project.”
UNESCO has requested the federal government’s report by February 1 next year.
WWF-Australia reef campaigner Richard Leck says other options, such as extending terminals into deeper waters so ships can access them, should be considered.
“We’re not anti-development, what we want to see is development done smarter,” he told AAP.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt welcomed UNESCO’s draft recommendations, saying they show progress was being made in protecting the reef.
He said this included developing a long-term plan to protect the ecosystem and improving water quality.
Mr Hunt said the Abbot Point dredging project complies with Australia’s obligations under the World Heritage Convention and approval had been subject to rigorous environmental assessment.
Greens Senator Larissa Waters disputed his claims, saying the state and federal governments had failed to implement a long-term plan to protect the reef.
UNESCO also raised concerns that a long-term plan to protect the reef hasn’t been completed despite recent approvals of coastal developments.