The new Federal Environment Minister Mark Butler has postponed the deadline for a decision on dredging at Abbot Point until the 9th August.
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Coal port developers want to tear up 3 million cubic metres of sea floor within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area at Abbot Point in north Queensland and dump the mud back in the ocean inside the nearby Marine Park.
Based on the science, the right decision would have been to reject the dredging proposal straight away, but this delay clearly shows that the growing public concern about this outrageous plan is having an effect.
The new Minister realises he’s in the hot-seat and Australians everywhere will be watching this decision to see whether he is willing to stand up for the Great Barrier Reef against the short term interests of multi-national coal companies.
Mark Butler is both Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, so he has multiple reasons to reject this proposal which threatens one of our natural treasures and would pave the way for a massive increase in coal exports from Abbot Point.
If approved, the dredging project would involve tearing up seagrass habitat that endangered turtles and dugongs rely on for food and there is a real risk that plumes of muddy water from the dredging could smother nearby coral reefs.
Local fishermen are also worried that the dredging could displace local fish stocks and threaten their livelihoods.
One key piece of information that’s still missing from the public debate about this issue is a new study commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority into the wider impacts of dredging and dumping on the Reef as a whole.
Greenpeace is calling on the Minister to publicly release this vital new information before making a decision.
The new dredging study is one component of the Federal Government’s “Strategic Assessment” of the way the Reef is being managed, which was initiated after the World Heritage Commission threatened to list the Reef as “in-Danger” unless more is done to control industrial development along the sensitive coastline.
The draft Strategic Assessment was due to be released in March but is now long overdue. The World Heritage Commission will make a final decision on whether to list the reef as “in danger” in June 2014.
Greenpeace will continue to campaign with your support for the next month to keep the pressure on Minister Butler to stand up to the coal companies and protect the Reef.