Topics: Ban on capital dredge disposal in the Great Barrier Reef
Well I’ve got a very patient Greg Hunt, the Federal Minister for the Environment, on the line, he’s just been listening to all of that information. But I have to take up another matter with him and that’s the announcement- actually, he’s made this announcement some time ago on this programme, but it’s only just appeared in the media now, because he has acted formally on these measures to ban the dredge spoil, this is the capital works dredge spoil, in the Marine Park, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Just briefly, it says Environment Minister Greg Hunt will release draft regulations in Brisbane to ban dredge spoil dumping on the Great Barrier Reef. The ban will relate to port dredge disposal, rather than maintenance dredging in the Great Barrier Marine Park, and Mr Hunt said the move was the next step in protecting the Reef.
Look, the reality here is he says sure it’s not going to impact on the maintenance dredging, which of course would see our port silt up, which would see our port actually become virtually useless in time. Yet the Green movement, you’ve heard people- these people speaking out about the last few days, they’re still opposing even the maintenance dredging, the spoil going out to the end of the inlet there where it’s been going for decades.
Greg Hunt’s with me on the line. G’day Greg.
G’day Macca, how are you?
Let’s go straight to that point, because that is the concern. How strong are you on this – that we will be able to continue with our maintenance dredging?
Look, of course that’s the situation. I think there’s bipartisan support, Federal and State level, because the alternative would be that you would have ships run aground. And that would be an environmental catastrophe. And of course you’d be closing the ports for visiting towns and cities, and nobody serious, nobody grown up, has been proposing that.
I know some of the extreme hard-left groups, including Larissa Waters, are trying to argue the case. But at no stage has anybody serious or professional in this space, proposed that. Let’s look at what we’ve just done though. We have just changed a century’s practice, a hundred years of practice, nobody’s done it before, 345,000 square kilometres, the full Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will be protected forever.
There will not be any more capital dredge disposal or major port disposal work in the Marine Park, and then the – that covers 99% of the World Heritage Area, and the other 1% of the World Heritage Area will be covered by the State. So we’re covering 99%, all of the Marine Park, and then the additional 1% that’s outside the Marine Park will be covered by the State of Queensland. So, that’s it, that’s the end of capital dredge disposal in both the Marine Park and the World Heritage Area.
And of course the other point now being brought up by the Green movement is they don’t want any spoil from a capital dredging project dumped anywhere adjacent to our World Heritage Area. That is another query that we’ve got concerns about.
Oh honestly, their initial response was not at sea, then not on land, and then not in the port area. And so what we saw from one group was they came clean, they said look, in the end we’re against mining, we’re against the Carmichael Mine 500 kilometres inland, and that’s what this is all about.
And it’s always been the case that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is the best-managed significant marine park in the world, no question. The IUCN has just adopted the Outlook Report, which is the health of the Reef report prepared by GBRMPA, as the gold standard, the model for international properties under the World Heritage Convention, the way in which they should be respected, reviewed, the science accepted and understood.
And so, this is a brilliant, extraordinary area that all of your listeners know as people who live on or adjacent to the Marine Park. The world knows it, some of the people in Australia are trying to talk it down, but that’s not the vast view.
Now, a couple of points that are being made – Michael Roche of the Queensland Resources Council says this move doesn’t represent evidence-based policy. Another response from Ports Australia, Anderson there, David Anderson, says you’ve allowed misguided activism to influence you here, this is a sop to UNESCO. What do you say to respond to those claims?
Oh look, we’ve worked very closely with ports and resources around the country, and in particular in terms of within Queensland, and I’ve actually had very good discussions with both of those gentlemen. They understand that this is a way of ensuring that we have long-term viability. Frankly, the campaign for de-listing the Barrier Reef, putting it on the endangered list, is an absolutely frightening prospect.
If we can have a good environmental outcome, and we can deal with those international concerns, that is about the long-term health and sustainability of the environment, but it’s also about ensuring that the sustainability of the resources sector and the tourism sector is protected. A de-listing, an endangered declaration, would be a disaster for Queensland, and this is an important step and that is an important consideration, I have to be absolutely frank about that.
But there is also the concern that UNESCO might be very vulnerable to a lot of misinformation by these pressure groups. Now, I mean, is your move evidence-based, that’s the question. Did you have evidence that this spoil would indeed endanger the coral way out in the Great Barrier Reef?
So, what’s in the draft regulation and the impact statement that’s been put out by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is the middle ground. And that is, it’s not about destruction of the Reef, and it never was – that was always a myth perpetrated by the Greens, because of course these were all State Labor projects advanced and in some cases approved by Federal Labor – nor is it entirely benign.
It’s about local effect and cumulative impact. And so that’s what the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority review and report discusses. And so it was always about the sensible middle ground as to what was the situation. And in short, no, there wasn’t a threat to the great body of the Reef, that was a false and misleading campaign by some. Is it entirely without impact? No, nobody serious has equally said that, there are local impacts.
And if we can do two things: improve the long-term overall health of the inshore areas, as well as ensure that the international community actually looks at this and says this is an example of a country protecting and managing its reef, and sends the message out, that is good for tourism, it is good for the sustainability of ports and resources.
Alright. I heard the bell there Greg, you’ll have to go. But next time you’re in town, can we have a longer discussion on this matter? It’s been good to talk to you today, thank you.
He’s the Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt.