Abbot Point and Curtis Island projects approved - new safeguards to protect the long-term future of the Great Barrier Reef
December 10, 2013
After rigorous assessment, I have completed the approvals process for four Queensland projects under National Environmental Law. I have approved:
• The capital dredging program for the proposed Terminals 0, 2 and 3 at the Port of Abbot Point
• The Adani T0 project at Abbot Point
• The Arrow Liquefied Natural Gas Facility on Curtis Island
• The Arrow Gas Transmission Pipeline to Curtis Island.
These projects are for existing developed port and industrial sites and have been approved subject to the highest environmental standards and conditions.
As Federal Environment Minister, one of my key responsibilities is to ensure ecologically sustainable development and maintaining the health of the Great Barrier Reef.
Some of the strictest conditions in Australian history have been placed on these projects to ensure that any impacts are avoided, mitigated or offset. Some of these include:
• 150% net benefit requirement for water quality. The result will be a long-term net reduction of fine sediments entering the Marine Park from land-based sources, well beyond the life of the projects.
• Approximately $89m will be contributed to support the health of the Great Barrier Reef through programmes such as the Reef Trust.
• 95 environmental conditions for Abbot Point and 53 for Curtis Island LNG.
• Measures for protection of marine species and their habitat, ecological communities, flora and fauna.
These decisions take into account the latest and best science and management practices, and consider the draft Strategic Assessment of the Great Barrier Reef and Coastal Zone, the Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone and the Queensland Government’s draft Ports Strategy.
As part of the assessment process I have visited the Abbot Point and Gladstone areas, meeting with individuals and groups, listening to their concerns and hearing from supporters of the potential economic benefit to the area.
These projects were started under Labor, but the Coalition has taken major steps to minimise the environmental impact.
Under Labor, 33 decisions were made to advance port and dredging activities at Abbot Point and a further 55 at Port of Gladstone.
Under Labor, at least 38 million cubic metres of dredging was proposed for Abbot Point. With the approvals given by the Coalition government, dredging is limited to a total volume of 3 million cubic metres. This is less than one-twelfth the size of the proposal previously supported by the former Labor State and Federal governments.
The previous Rudd-Gillard governments approved or considered over 93 million cubic metres of potential dredge actions at the Port of Gladstone and Abbot Point.
The Coalition cannot undo Labor’s decisions, but going forward, we are taking a different approach. We are drawing a line in the sand.
Today I am announcing new plans to protect the long-term future of the Great Barrier Reef.
I have advised the Queensland Government that it is my intention that the first priority for all future capital dredging projects within the Central and North Queensland coastal zone will be for shoreline, near to shore or land reclamation disposal.
This is a significant step towards improving and protecting the Marine Park for future generations.
This follows my recent agreement with the Gladstone Ports Authority that they will not dispose of up to 12 million cubic metres of spoil within the Marine Park, but will instead use this material for land infill.
This approach would allow existing ports to expand their capacity while taking away the need for the creation of new ports into the future. This would maximise the benefit of existing ports, in line with the Queensland Government’s recently announced Ports Strategy.
There are great examples in Queensland where the material produced by dredging has been used for land reclamation – for example, the Port of Brisbane.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s great natural wonders and protecting it for the future is vital. As well as being a natural marvel, the reef plays a vital role in the North Queensland economy, generating significant business and tourism. Everyone wants to see the reef remain one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet so it can be enjoyed by future generations.
It is important to note that each of these sites is already heavily industrialised and that the processes were highly advanced at the change of government.
The conditions I have put in place for these projects will result in an improvement in water quality and strengthen the Australian Government’s approach to meeting the challenges confronting the Reef into the future.