A permit giving North Queensland Bulk Ports Corp. the right to dump millions of cubic meters of dredging waste from a coal port expansion project in the waters of Great Barrier Marine Park is facing a court challenge.
On Thursday, green group North Queensland Conservation Council filed a challenge at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in Brisbane in hopes of overturning the dredging permit which they say endangers the already threatened Reef.
The permit, granted by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in January allows for the dumping of 3 million cubic meters of sand and soil dredged up at the Abbot Point port.
The permit was granted the day before the Australian government sent a report to UNESCO warning of the “serious decline in hard coral cover in two-thirds of the southern region.”
The Great Barrier Reef, the most extensive coral reef system on the planet, with 400 species of coral and 1,500 species of fish, was declared a World Heritage area in 1981.
Recently, however, the United Nation’s environmental arm warned that the world’s largest coral reef could be listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger if Australia doesn’t act fast to protect it. In June, the UN gave the Australian government a 12-month deadline to show that they were improving the health of the Reef.
The Reef generates $5 billion a year for marine tourism operators and is already threatened by tropical cyclones, the crown of thorns starfish and coral bleaching.
The Abbot Point port is being expanded to accommodate the $16 billion worth of coal projects planned in the Galilee Basin by Indian firms Adani Enterprises and GVK — and Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart.
One of those projects, Galilee Basin, is owned by Clive Palmer, a right-wing billionaire who won a seat to Parliament under the banner of how own political party, Palmer United. The Abbott Point port would support rail shipments of coal from Palmer’s mine.
In another potentially positive development for the Great Barrier Reef, a major construction firm, Lend Lease, has withdrawn from one of the terminal expansion projects at Abbot Point.
Lend Lease’s chief executive Steve McCann has confirmed that, after an internal review, it had allowed its planned joint bid to build and finance the Abbot Point X coal terminal near Bowen on the central Queensland coast to lapse.
“This is a huge victory for the Reef, for Australians and for the world community, and we want to commend Lend Lease for demonstrating its credentials as a leader in sustainability, and its commitment to sound environmental principles and good corporate citizenship,” Lucy Manne, national co-director of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition told The Sydney Morning Herald.