Greenpeace have shared FOI documents which reveal that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Protection Authority (GBRMPA) advised minister Greg Hunt not to approve dredging for the Abbott Point coal port expansion.
The Queensland government owned North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation recently received approval for the dredging, which will deepen Abbot Point to make room for six extra coal ships and become the largest coal export facility in Australia.
The three million cubic metres of dredged seabed will be dumped within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, after approval was granted by GBRMPA last year.
A document from the GBRMPA stated that a medium case scenario would create a dredging plume footprint that would affect more than 147 square kilometres of habitat, and a worst case scenario plume footprint would affect over 687 square kilometres of marine habitat.
“This area includes coral reefs and potential seagrass habitat. … this is likely to be an underestimate,” according to the draft recommendation written by GBRMPA.
“The GBRMPA thus considers that the proposal for capital dredging of 3 million cubic metres of sediment and disposal at a yet to be specified location within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park should not be approved.”
GBRMPA suggested land-based dumping to prevent the risk to habitat within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
In a letter to the Department of Sustainablility, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, GBRMPA director (environmental assessment and management) Adam Smith said that alternatives to sea disposal “seem to have been inappropriately dismissed”.
“Land disposal of most of the dredge material within the train loops would seem possible given a staged dredge campaign… This would reduce both the environmental and social impacts of the proposal,” Smith said.
“Our assessment… leads us to the view that sea dumping of 3 million cubic metres of dredge material should not be supported. If ultimately disposal at sea is an appropriate option then further considerations of disposal sites would be required.”