Tourism bodies fight to protect GBR

Four Queensland peak tourism industry associations have expressed grave concerns to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority over it’s approval to dump 3.5 million cubic metres of port dredge from Abbot Point Coal Port into the waters of the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

The Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association and Dive Queensland have written to GBRMPA requesting that they do not issue the permit to allow dumping of port dredge inside the Marine Park waters.

AMPTO’s Col McKenzie said the four industry associations expect that the GBRMPA act on the organisation’s own report findings about management of the reef. “The ecosystem health of the Great Barrier Reef is rated as ‘poor to very poor’, which is why we are asking GBRMPA to not issue a permit for offshore dumping of industrial volumes of spoil inside the reef’s waters,” Mr McKenzie said. “GBRMPA’s own report states ‘the reef’s health is declining, and without additional management intervention the region’s ecosystem, it is likely to continue to deteriorate’.

“We ask GBRMPA to heed their own findings that state, “Strong steps are needed now to secure the long-term future of the reef. A history of increased nutrient and sediment loads entering the region, combined with a decade of extreme weather, has affected the region’s ecosystem.”

QTIC chief executive Daniel Gschwind said the interests of all coastal industries- including tourism – must remain significant and competitive alongside other government interests. “Tourism in Queensland directly contributes $22 billion to the state’s economy and more than 136,000 Queenslanders are directly employed through tourism,” Mr Gschwind said. “The reef alone produces an Australia-wide value-added economic contribution of $5.7 billion generated in the Great Barrier Reef catchment with employment of almost 70,000 people.”

“It is essential that the correct balance is achieved in regards to port development and the environmental protection of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Federal environment minister Greg Hunt has stated ‘offsets’ are to be applied as part of the port’s development. Mr McKenzie said if the ports are going to dump spoil in the marine park, they must make environmental improvements somewhere else.

“The main problem with this approach is that it will take years for the offsets to take effect,” he said. “Offsets are required to help the impacts from global warming and associated impacts. Extending the wharf to meet the ships will have a real net benefit and also on-going maintenance dredging will not be required, lessening sediment loads further over the ports life.

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