Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has announced that the Australian Government plans to legislate a permanent ban on the dumping of capital dredge spoil on the Great Barrier Reef.
Capital dredging is used to create or enlarge existing shipping channels, berths or terminals where ships load and unload. Dredging involves cutting away large swathes of seafloor, lifting or sucking it up and dumping it somewhere else.
“We are delivering on our commitment to end this century-old practice. This demonstrates our commitment to the Reef and the significant progress we are making to reduce cumulative pressures on this precious ecosystem. This will represent a complete ban on capital dredge disposal in the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. There will be zero capital disposal anywhere in the entire 345,000sq km Marine Park. This covers the full area of Commonwealth legislative control. The Queensland Government has also committed to cover a further 3000sq km including existing port areas which are not in the Marine Park,” said Minister Hunt in a media release.
“Together, the 345,000 sq km Commonwealth ban (100% of the Marine Park and 99% of the total ban) and the 3000 sq km Queensland ban (1% of the total ban) will cover 100% of the World Heritage area. The ban will be put in law through regulation and will apply to all applications for capital dredge disposal in the marine park whether past present or future,” said Mr Hunt.
Numerous sources report that the Great Barrier Reef could possibly be listed as “in danger” at the upcoming UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meeting scheduled to take place this June in Germany.
“Improving the Great Barrier Reef’s health and resilience requires governments and the community to work together to ensure the Reef remains one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth. We know that the reef still retains the outstanding values for which it was listed as a World Heritage Property in 1981. That is why we are already investing heavily in improving water quality in the Marine Park, and this measure to ban capital dredge material disposal will further strengthen those efforts,” the Minister said.
Minister Hunt also revealed that the Federal Government and the Queensland Government will invest over $2 billion on the Reef over the next ten years.
Hunt’s announcement comes six months after the Queensland government approved a plan to stop dredging waste from the coal port expansion being dumped offshore.
The Queensland Resources Council warned that the ban could limit future port expansions.
“While the Queensland Resources Council supports any efforts that improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef, we also need to be mindful that we are an island nation and we need ports for imports and exports across many industries,” reads QRC’s statement.