Business as usual as Reef fears escalate

Press release - 24 June, 2012
Greenpeace today released a list of coal terminal projects that have been able to proceed through the environmental approval process despite United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) “extreme concern” for the state of the Great Barrier Reef expressed in 2011 and echoed in its damning report released earlier this month.

The new study comes as the UNESCO World Heritage Committee meets in St. Petersburg where final decisions about the conservation state of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the measures required to secure its long-term will be requested to the Australian Government.

Since UNESCO called upon the Australian Government to undertake a strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area in 2011, seven coal terminal projects have been allowed to enter the Environmental Protection Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) approval process.  If all these seven proposed terminals proceed they would increase the volume of coal exported from Queensland by almost 600 million tonnes per year, increasing coal shipping by an estimated 6437 ships per year. [1]

Although the Queensland and the Commonwealth government agreed to undertake a Strategic Assessment earlier this year, the terms of reference are yet to be finalised.  “The State and Federal government’s decision to undertake a strategic assessment is ineffective if the developmental projects continue to be allowed through the approvals process” said Julien Vincent Greenpeace Campaigner.

A UNESCO mission inspected the Great Barrier Reef in March 2012. Their report, from 14 June, recommends “the highest level of precaution in decision-making regarding development proposals with potential to impact the property, and to Prevent any approval of major projects that may compromise the outcomes of the Strategic Assessment, until the Strategic Assessment is completed and its resulting plan for the long-term sustainable development for the property has been considered by the World Heritage Committee. During this period, the State Party is requested to ensure no developments are permitted which create individual, cumulative or combined impacts on the OUV [Outstanding Universal Value] of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area and its long-term conservation [2]

“The planned strategic assessment of the reef would be totally undermined if these projects are allowed to proceed before that assessment is completed”, said Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner Julien Vincent.  He continued “Greenpeace is calling on Environment Minister Tony Burke to immediately implement a moratorium on all major new port developments in the Great Barrier Reef until a robust strategic assessment is concluded and a management plan put in place.”

Notes to the Editor

1. Greenpeace “List of projects” briefing paper  The assessment did not account for coal terminal projects that were already in the planning system. If these additional projects were included in the assessment, coal tonnage and shipping volumes would be much greater.

2. UNESCO mission report available from

Julie Macken – Greenpeace -  - 0400 925217
Julien Vincent – Greenpeace – - 0419 179 529