Abbot Point expansion court challenge

A court case challenging Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s decision to approve dredging and dumping at Abbot Point has been filed in Queensland.

The Mackay Conservation Group, represented by the Environmental Defenders' Office, said it will argue Hunt has failed in his obligation to protect the World Heritage Area.

Hunt approved the expansion of Abbot Point coal terminal in December under strict conditions.

The project will include the controversial dredging and dumping of 3 million tonnes of sludge in waters deemed to be a part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Environmentalists say the court case could have implications for other world heritage areas and will test national environment laws protecting world heritage sites.

“The world will be watching this case. The World Heritage Committee has expressed concern over the Australian and Queensland governments’ efforts to protect the Reef, particularly from mega-port development and the associated dredging and dumping,” campaign coordinator Ellen Roberts said.

Queensland Resources Council chief Michael Roche dismissed the case as an attempt to delay the development of coal mines by the anti-mining movement.

"By preventing Abbot Point dredging they are trying to prevent areas like the Galilee Basin getting coal out of the ground,” Roche said.

"Let's look at the decision that they are objecting to.

"(It) involves very rigorous scientific analysis, it involves 95 conditions imposed by the Minister, it involves delivering a net benefit to water quality in the Great Barrier Reef through needing to offset to the tune of 150%.

"And of course on top of the Minister's conditions the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority imposed another 47 conditions."

This is the second legal challenge to the proposed Abbot Point development, ABC reports.

The North Queensland Conservation Group launched an appeal against a separate decision to allow the dumping of dredge spoil in reef waters by The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, which oversees the marine park.

The authority's general manager for Biodiversity, Conservation and Sustainable Use, Bruce Elliot, has defended the decision.

“By granting this permit application with rigorous safeguards, we believe we are able to provide certainty to both the community and the proponent while seeking to ensure transparent and best practice environmental management of the project," he said.

A recent article by coral ecologist Dr Alison Jones said green groups had been wrongly arguing that dredging and dumping were a major threat to the reef.

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