3 signs we’re making progress on saving the Great Barrier Reef

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Feature Story - 16 August, 2013
Recent news of the delaying of massive coal projects on the Queensland coast demonstrates the power of our efforts to save the Reef. Here’s a quick wrap up to show what we’ve achieved together.

Aerial view of the Great Barrier reef off the Whitsunday Islands.

1. Plans to dredge the Great Barrier Reef seabed delayed

Last week Environment Minister Mark Butler stopped the clock on his decision to dredge the pristine waters of the Great Barrier Reef at Abbot Point.

He announced the delay to study a new report launched by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on the impacts of destructive dredging and dumping of the sediment. The report (PDF) found that dredging is far more damaging to the environment than previously thought.

Unless these impacts are properly taken into account, huge areas of coral and animal habitats could be smothered under dredge spoil. If you haven’t already, send Minister Butler an email and make sure he says NO to dredging in the Great Barrier Reef.

2. Water-hungry coal mine Kevin’s Corner decision postponed

Less than 24 hours before the decision to postpone dredging at Abbot Point, the decision on the massive new Kevin’s Corner coal mine (co-owned by Gina Rinehart) was also pushed back.

Shockingly, this mine would suck up an enormous 9 billion litres of water every year – water that nearby farming properties rely on. This delay is not only great news for the climate and our Great Barrier Reef but also local communities.

As Greenpeace’s Queensland Community Campaigner said: "Although we believe there are strong grounds to reject this destructive proposal outright, we're heartened that the new Environment Minister Mark Butler has delayed the approval to allow more time for the impacts on groundwater to be properly investigated."

3. Coal port investors become increasingly wary

Australia’s biggest new coal mine, Alpha Coal, was labelled by financial analysts as “a monument to short sightedness” following an investigative report into the viability of the project. It shows that our behind-the-scenes strategy to expose environmentally and economically dodgy deals to the press, public and potential investors works.

Last week we went along the AGM of India-based mining conglomerate GVK (who are one of the biggest proponents of coal projects in Australia) in the Indian city of Hyderabad. We questioned GVK’s board on all the financial risk, they refused to answer our question.

GVK is facing a backlash against their coal projects in Australia from the fishing industry, tourism operators in the Great Barrier Reef, landholders concerned about water supply and environmentalists.

So the good news is that together we have slowed these three major projects down. And, as climate experts say, when coal stays in the ground, climate change will slow. This gives a crucial window of opportunity that we can use to ensure that, whoever wins the next election, these dreadful developments will be dumped forever.

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