War against dredging on the edge of Barrier Reef heats up

THE war being waged against dredging on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef is heating up with the region's local member accusing green groups of hypocrisy.

Awaiting approval is a plan to shift 3 million cubic metres of soil from near the Port of Abbot Point to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The proposal has state and federal approval, with conditions that demand reef water quality be improved after the dredging.

In late 2012, the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville found in a 27-year study, coral damage was almost entirely caused by storm damage and crown-of-thorns starfish, with just 10% affected by coral bleaching.

It did not find any specific impact caused by decades of coastline dredging.

On January 31, the guardians of the internationally protected reef - the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority - will decide whether the Abbot Point dredging can go ahead.

Nationals member for Dawson George Christensen is defending the dredging, saying it is critical for the economy of nearby Bowen and will have little to no impact on the reef.

Mr Christensen points to an expansion being considered for the Port of Townsville, requiring three times the amount of dredging, with 5 million tonnes to be relocated in the reef area.

Yet there is little campaigning, that is reserved for Abbot Point.

Mr Christensen believes it is because Abbot Point will be a key coal port, Townsville will not.

"If the green movement was consistent and had genuine concern, they would be concerned about all these port developments equally but they are not," he said.

"To me, that rings the alarm bells that these guys are not really so concerned about the Great Barrier Reef, they're concerned about the export resource that's coming out of the port."

For coalmines planned in the Galilee Basin west of Rockhampton looking to use this port, this permit is one of the final bureaucratic hurdles.

Greenpeace campaigner Louise Mathiesson said the group openly opposed Abbot Point not just for its dredging but also for its use by coal exporters.

"Certainly Abbot Point is a double whammy for the reef, there are direct local impacts from dredging plus global impacts from burning coal.

"Of course we're concerned about the expansion of coal in Queensland and the climate change impacts."