Queensland’s premier says dredge spoil is just sand and silt, but his government wants it used onshore in all future port developments.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman wants all dredged spoil from port developments dumped onshore in future.

He says it’s his government’s “strong belief” dredge material should be reused onshore rather than dumped at sea.

“That’s something we’ve said in the past and I’m happy to say it again today,” Mr Newman told reporters.

“That’s something we want to see for all port development in future in Queensland.”

However, the premier also claimed dredged spoil continued to be portrayed in a negative way, despite it being made up of natural materials – sand and silt.

His comments come as the federal Senate considers laws which would hand environmental approvals for nationally significant projects to the states.

Currently, major projects need a tick from both the state and federal environment ministers.

Earlier this week North Queensland Bulk Ports, the authority expanding the Abbot Point coal terminal, said they were looking at alternatives to dumping dredge spoil from the project at sea.

The controversial project will dump up to three million cubic metres of sand and silt within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

A Labor-Greens Senate enquiry report, released on Thursday, has recommended a moratorium on dredge spoil dumping until research into its impacts has been completed.

The ban has support from coalition committee members as do 22 of 28 other recommendations.

“We acknowledge that the dredging, and the disposal of dredge spoil, can have some quite significant localised impacts,” committee deputy chair Liberal senator Anne Ruston said.

But Labor senator and committee chair Anne Urquhart accused the government of showing little interest in protecting the reef.

The Australian Greens welcomed the moratorium but said it didn’t go far enough, calling for a permanent ban on all dumping in the World Heritage Area.

Environmental groups welcomed the Senate enquiry report and urged the federal government to take note.

“There must be a total ban on dumping in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area,” WWF Reef campaigner Louise Matthiesson said.

“We need to immediately set higher pollution reduction targets, and fast-track the actions to meet them.”

Queensland Resources Council president Michael Roche said it fully supported increased resources being directed towards management of the reef, but would not support a blanket ban on dumping spoil “at suitable locations at sea”.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who approved the Abbot Point project, wouldn’t say whether any of the recommendations would be adopted, but said there was still a “possibility” dredge spoil would be dumped onshore.