Scientist claims dumping of dredge waste could destroy reef
THE dumping of dredge spoil on the Great Barrier Reef from port developments along the Queensland coast could have effects as big as sediment run-off, Senate estimates was told on Tuesday.
Under questioning during hearings in Canberra, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority scientist Dr Adam Smith made the comment.
The revelation come as the July deadline for Environment Minister Tony Burke to consider the approval of a 3 million cubic metre dredging project at Abbot Point, near Mackay.
Dr Smith said new research which included ocean currents had shown the impacts of dumping dredge spoil on the reef could be more extensive than previously thought.
His comments mirrored some he made during a closed door meeting with Abbot Point port extension proponents in March this year.
In that meeting, Dr Smith said while the Commonwealth had a policy on offsetting environmental impacts, the GBRMPA did not.
"The impacts of any dredging spoil disposal both directly and indirectly will be much bigger with other aspects such as water quality, biodiversity and impact on other users to be considered," the minutes of the meeting read.
GBRMPA representative Andrew Skeat also spoke during the meeting.
He said more recent work had suggested the quantum of suspended sediments moving up and down the coast due to dredging remobilisation was "in the same order of magnitude as what is coming out of the rivers".
Mr Smith confirmed Mr Skeat's statement, saying it depended on the assumptions made, but that it was "roughly in the same order of volume".
Minutes of the meeting also show North Queensland Bulk Ports' chief executive Brad Fish said the protection of the reef was "paramount", and the ports wanted to work with the authority for the best outcome.
"If we take the position that we stop development, (it) would put doubt on future projects and therefore funding for on-going protection of the Great Barrier Reef," the minutes read.
Authority chief executive Dr Russel Reichelt said the full results of the research could not yet be released.
He told Estimates that once the authority passed on the results to the Minister Burke, the Minister would then decided when to release the findings.
Australian Marine Conservation Society campaigner Felicity Wishart said it was crucial the public was made aware of "all evidence around the impact of dredging now".
"This throws into question all the port expansion plans up and down the reef," she said.
"Where is the data? What are the facts? Are the state and federal government receiving inadequate advice or ignoring proper advice?"
The NQBP circulated a statement on Wednesday, which said the port was experience in dredging campaigns, having completed 19 in the region without incident.
However, the statement said the ports had "concerns with regards to the suitability of the modelling used in the research to accurately assess impact and prediction of risk" to the reef.