Abbott prefers the expansion of existing coal ports

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said he prefers the idea of expanding existing coal ports along the Queensland coast rather than the construction of new projects.

Tony Abbott says any new developments should be carefully considered.

"While I think it's very important that we have faster and more certain environmental approval processes, it's also important that we maintain very high environmental standards," Abbott said.

The comments came after the LNP’s Michelle Landry and Ken O’Dowd both expressed opposition to the development of a coal port at Keppel Bay, ABC reported.

"My preference, and as far as I'm aware Michelle Landry and Ken O'Dowd's preference, is very much for the coal industry to be supported and to expand but for ports to be expanded where they currently are,” Abbott said.

"Obviously the expansion of Abbot Point, the expansion of the coal facilities at Gladstone is quite different from a new port at Point Alma.

"It is much better to expand existing ports than to develop new ones, particularly in areas which have high environmental values."

Landry said she is concerned around coal spillages at the Fitzroy Terminal.

"They were having the barges that go out there and load the coal on to the ships but what concerns me is the water … I live at the beach, it's rough more than it's calm out there and I just don't see how they're going to load the coal from those barges without spillage into the ocean," she said.

The Mitchell Group is seeking approval for a $900 terminal in the mouth of the Fitzroy River, with barges to take coal out to ships off the coast.

Former Environment Minister Tony Burke recently wrote to the company saying the project is clearly unacceptable following new information received from Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Mitchell Ports project manager Peter McTaggart said Burke’s letter was outside of the EIS process.

"We're actually perplexed as to why we received the letter," McTaggart said.

"I suppose he's stating his opinion, why he's doing that I'm not sure."

McTaggart said the company will continue to seek environment approval.

"Tony Burke's not the environment minister any more – he may not be in government in several weeks from now,” he said.

Ginny Gerlach from the Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance said Burke's letter highlighted the environmental impacts the new coal terminal will have if approved.

"The reality is that if there is a change of government, the Coalition would need to look very, very clearly at this proposal and also at the protection mechanisms generally for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area," she said.

"This is a critical habitat that feeds into the Great Barrier Reef.”

Gerlach said the terminal should not go ahead in the sensitive river mouth area.

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