A KEY strategy to protect the Great Barrier Reef and create up to 28,000 jobs in Galilee Basin mines has been submitted to the Commonwealth Government for approval.
Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Planning and Infrastructure, Jeff Seeney, said the Abbot Point Port and Wetland Strategy would pave the way for dredge material from port development to be used on land instead of disposed at sea.
“Since our election in 2012 we have worked hard to develop a plan that eases Queenslanders concerns about off-shore disposal of dredge material and allows for the sustainable development of a world class port to support Queensland’s resources sector,” Mr Seeney said.
According to Mr Seeney, the strategy will help protect the reef by placing dredge material from port expansion in a defined onshore area rather than at sea.
It will also secure the future of the port by beneficially re-using dredged material for future development.
It aims to improve the wetlands by preserving and enhancing their ecological value and implementing long-term management plans and it will clearly delineate the boundary between port industry land and wetland protection areas via a rail embankment. Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping (WRAD) spokesperson, Brittney Gregory, said that while the group welcomed the proposal not to dump the dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, “the wetlands are certainly not a viable or adequate alternative”.
“The Caley Valley Wetlands provide breeding grounds for over 40,000 waterbirds – including the threatened Painted Snipe. It is important that the wetlands are not used as dumping grounds, as they act as natural filters for the Great Barrier Reef [and] we don’t want to see what happened in Gladstone – where the dredged material leaked back into the water – happen in the Caley Valley Wetlands,” Ms Gregory said.
“To change from wanting to dump in one of Australia’s most iconic natural destinations – The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park – to now wanting to dump in an internationally significant wetland is not acceptable.”
Mr Seeney said pending Commonwealth Government approval under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Action 1999, construction work on the onshore area would start in January 2015, enabling dredging to start on schedule in March 2015.