Qld govt fights back against Barrier Reef "misinformation"

THE Queensland Government has launched a campaign against "misinformation" on the Great Barrier Reef, which has drawn the support of the resources industry and ire of environmentalists.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell launched the "Reef Facts" campaign on Sunday, saying "false and extreme claims" about the state of the reef could damage Queensland's reputation if they were not addressed.

The campaign include a website and several fact sheets which reiterate some threats to the reef's environment including sediment run-off, crown of thorns starfish and climate change.

It comes after a legal challenge to the approval of dumping of three million cubic metres of sediment at Abbot Point, in the marine park, was launched last week.

Mr Powell said the Newman Government was "doing more" than any other government before it to protect the reef, and it was important people had "access to the facts".

"We want to reduce all impacts as much as possible, which is why the Deputy Premier, Jeff Seeney, released the Queensland Ports Strategy last year restricting future port development to the long established major ports, consistent with what UNESCO has requested," he said.

"The constant focus on Abbot Point and the impacts of dredging is completely out of proportion and not based on the facts."

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche has welcomed the campaign, saying the state's reputation was "being trashed by activists" intent on stopping coal and gas exports.

He said the "relentless demonisation of essential dredging" not only ignored the scientific evidence, but also threatened the future of the resources industry he represents.

But Australian Marine Conservation Society reef campaigner Felicity Wishart said the government's new campaign was itself "misinformation".

She said if the government was protecting the reef, "they wouldn't need a campaign to allay the public's fears over dredging, dumping and port expansion".

"The community is very concerned about plans for dredging and dumping of three million cubic metres at Abbot Point and documents just released ... confirm it poses serious risks," she said.

"They talk about the problems of water quality from farm run off, but totally ignore the additional threat of dredging and dumping."

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chairman Russell Reichelt also weighed into the public arena on Monday, with an opinion piece on The Conversation website.

He wrote the debate about Abbot Point was marked by "considerable misinformation", such as claims "toxic sludge" would be dumped on the reef.

Mr Reichelt wrote that testing of the sediment to be dumped at the port had shown it was not toxic, and the "highly regulated activity" did not allow spoil to be dumped on sensitive marine environments.


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