Figures obtained through Senate Estimates reveal more than 112 million cubic metres - or 65 Melbourne Cricket Grounds - are proposed to be dredged from the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area, with 52 million cubic metres already approved by the Federal Government.
A coalition of representatives from the fishing and tourism industries and reef scientists joined Australian Greens environment spokesperson Senator Larissa Waters to make the announcement today.
“The amount of dredging planned for the Reef for coal and coal seam gas export is off the charts – until October 2010, 6.5 million cubic metres of dredging had been approved in a five year period, now that’s ballooned to 112 million cubic metres on the books,” Senator Waters said.
“Australians have the right to know the devastating plans in store for our priceless Great Barrier Reef, before the Government transforms it into super highway for coal and gas tankers.
“This vast increase in dredging is recklessly endangering the World Heritage status of our Great Barrier Reef, and UNESCO are so alarmed they are sending a delegation to the Reef in March.
“The Government’s strategic assessment of development on the Reef to placate UNESCO is a farce because it will not assess any of this mass dredging or any other development already applied for.
“The Gladstone harbour crisis should be a warning for the rest of the Reef – with only two million cubic metres dredged so far, we’ve seen widespread fish contamination, greater numbers of dead turtles and dugongs and fishers and tourist operators sent to the wall.
“While Gladstone Ports Corporation continue to deny their dredging is having any impact, they’ve also demanded Gladstone harbour be removed from the World Heritage Area, a damning admission that mass dredging is incompatible with World Heritage values.
“Environment Minister Tony Burke must start listening to the thousands of Australians calling for dredging throughout the Reef to be suspended, and included in the strategic assessment, before we see the Gladstone harbour crisis repeated up and down the coast.”