An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef.
An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef. Queensland Tourism

UNESCO voices concern about mining projects near GB Reef

AUSTRALIA has narrowly avoided having the Great Barrier Reef labelled "in danger", but slated port developments and expansions along the Queensland coastline means our governments are on thin ice.

At its World Heritage Committee meeting in Cambodia on Tuesday, UNESCO made plain its concerns about major gas and coal developments near the reef.

These follow on from its draft findings released earlier this year in which UNESCO expressly told the Queensland Government to "ensure that no port developments or associated port infrastructure are permitted outside the existing and long-established major port areas within or adjoining the property."

Queensland Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the pass rating showed its ports strategy, downgrading of Abbot Point expansion plans and water quality funding had been noticed.

"This Government has taken action to protect the reef and I thank UNESCO for its acknowledgement of our efforts to date."

Environment Minister Tony Burke
Environment Minister Tony Burke

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said even with a re-assessment looming next year, he was happy for the Commonwealth's work in protecting the reef to be recognised.

"There are a number of threats facing the reef including climate change, coastal developments, agricultural run-ff, ocean acidification and outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish," he said.

"We are working to address each of these, on land and in the ocean."

Queensland's Greens Senator Larissa Waters was more concerned than relieved.

She said neither the Queensland nor Commonwealth governments were acting to protect the reef, even as UNESCO raised red flags.

Legislation introduced into Federal Parliament by the Greens that would implement UNESCO recommendations is unlikely to be dealt with before the election.

Senator Waters said both state and federal governments needed, "to stop those damaging port expansions and put a pause on development until the strategic assessment plan for the reef is finished".

The expansions of Dudgeon Point south of Mackay and Abbot Point at Bowen both needed to be curtailed until the assessment was done, she said.


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