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By Mark Beale

MORE than 300 people from all walks of life have joined Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping (WRAD) in creating a spectacular on-water heart formation in support of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Whitsunday Flotilla for the Reef, held at the Cannonvale marine club on Sunday morning, was one of two Queensland events aimed at persuading the State and Federal Governments to ban the dumping of dredge spoil in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

WRAD spokesperson, Brittney Gregory, said the turnout was fantastic, with the Whitsunday community joining together to ask for better protection for the reef and Caley Valley wetlands at Abbot Point.

“The heart signified our love for the reef [and] we created a heart on land as well to show that we are united as a community – it’s not just the tourism operators and officials that are concerned, it’s everyone within the Whitsundays, from farmers to everyday people in offices,” she said. Whitsunday Charter Boat Association president, Tony Brown, agreed with this, saying Sunday’s turnout highlighted the importance of the barrier reef to everyone.

“So many people are really engaged in the health of the Great Barrier Reef and want to save this world heritage seventh wonder of the world,” he said.

Ms Gregory and Mr Brown were joined at the event by a number of speakers including founder of the Order of Underwater Coral Heroes (OUCH) Tony Fontes, Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) spokesperson Cherry Muddle, and Indian activist Debi Goenka, who is currently challenging the approval of the enormous Carmichael mine in the Queensland Land Court.

Mr Goenka said in his opinion “the coal should remain in Australia where it belongs”.

“When this coal is burnt in power stations in India, it will hurt the health, environment and livelihoods of the poor there, and these people can neither afford nor access the power from that coal,” he said.

“My organisation and I are fighting the Adani Group’s plans here in the Queensland courts [and] we stand with Australians in rising up to protect your iconic reef, your livelihoods and your way of life.”

Ms Muddle reminded the crowd that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was an international icon “not a dumping site”.

“The Reef and the wetlands are fragile environments and are already under pressure from many threats. Dumping dredge spoil at sea could damage critical nurseries, feeding and breeding grounds for the reef’s fish, turtles and dugongs,” she said.

Mr Fontes said even though there had been a decision at Abbot Point to think twice about dredge spoils “it’s not enough”.

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