Dirty business as usual on the Reef

Feature Story - 24 June, 2012
If you’re reading this you probably already know that the Great Barrier Reef is under threat because of rampant industrialisation up and down the coast.


Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke knows as well. In fact, back in October 2010 he warned that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee may consider placing the GBR on the “World Heritage in Danger” list and that approving new projects along the Reef would be harder if World Heritage and other environmental values were to be protected.

Yet, a new Greenpeace study shows that in less than 12 months, seven massive coal terminals in the World Heritage Area have been allowed to enter the approval process.  That’s two around Gladstone, one at Hay Point, three at Abbot Point and one in stunning Cape York. And there’s no sign of it slowing down. The documentation for Indian conglomerate GVK’s huge terminal (T3) at Abbot Point was put our for public comment on 18 June.

If all seven of these export coal terminals go ahead, the amount of coal exported from Queensland could go up by nearly 600 million tonnes per year. New ports… millions of tonnes of dredging… over 6000 more ships through the Reef from these seven projects alone. These numbers are even greater when projects already in the planning system before last June are accounted for.

Earlier this year, when Queensland and the Commonwealth Government agreed to undertake a strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef, it was a positive step. But with the assessment expected to take up to 18 months, the Reef’s future could already have been decided by the time it is completed.

Australia’s greatest natural treasure is threatened. It’s time for Tony Burke to act and stand up for the Reef.

UNESCO said it. In their recent report back after sending a team to Australia to inspect the state of the Reef, UNESCO said that ports and other developments shouldn’t be approved if they would pre-empt the strategic assessment.

They also recommended – and we quote – that Australia:

Adopt 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.

In layman’s terms, that means we shouldn’t have coal terminals being approved until the Strategic Assessment has been undertaken. Funnily enough, that’s just what Greenpeace is calling for.

If you haven’t already signed the petition to ask Tony Burke to do the right thing and let him know that the Reef is too precious to be turned into a coal superhighway, do so now. Your voice can make a huge difference.

Take Action: Sign the petition to save the reef