COMMUNITY CONCERN: About 150 people gathered at a Reef Hour in Airlie Beach shortly before Christmas, to express their concerns about the potential impacts of dredging at Abbot Point. The locally formed group ’Businesses United for Reef Protection’ is now calling on GBRMPA to refuse the permit to dump dredge spoil at sea. GBRMPA will make its decision by January 31.
COMMUNITY CONCERN: About 150 people gathered at a Reef Hour in Airlie Beach shortly before Christmas, to express their concerns about the potential impacts of dredging at Abbot Point. The locally formed group ’Businesses United for Reef Protection’ is now calling on GBRMPA to refuse the permit to dump dredge spoil at sea. GBRMPA will make its decision by January 31.

Businesses call on GBRMPA to stop sea dumping at Abbot Point

WHITSUNDAY tourism operators who are fighting to protect the Great Barrier Reef are asking local residents to contact the marine park's custodians and express their concerns about the potential impacts of dredging at Abbot Point.

Last month, Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt granted approval for the state-owned North Queensland Bulk Ports (NQBP) to dredge three million cubic metres of material around Abbot Point.

The issuing of a permit for offshore disposal of the dredge spoil was placed in the hands of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), who were to decide whether to approve or reject the proposed dumping location by December 24.

Instead they deferred their decision to January 31.

Shortly before Christmas, about 150 locals took part in a Reef Hour at the Down Under Bar in Airlie Beach, where speakers including tourism operators, dive instructors and community campaigners, urged the public to call on GBRMPA to refuse the sea dumping permit.

Community campaigner Cherry Muddle said it was GBRMPA's responsibility to consider community opinion and protect the reef, not add to its pressures.

"So I implore the community to call GBRMPA before January 31 on 4750 0700 and voice your concerns," she said.

Murray Sandman, a member of the Whitsunday local marine park authority and licence holder for the kayak eco tours at Dingo Beach, is one of the locals who has acted on this call.

Mr Sandman wrote directly to GBRMPA chairman Russell Reichelt after receiving a Christmas card from him.

"Thank you very much for the delightful and colourful festive greetings card - however, will the colours and clarity be still there for your grandchildren's children's cards?" his letter said.

"There are alternatives - why don't the mining companies take back to their sites the dredging spoils in their empty coal trains?" he asked.

"This is a viable user-pays suggestion and will not interfere with [GBRMPA's] mandate of improving the reef's long-term health and continuing beauty."

When asked about the possibility of dumping the spoil on land, a spokesman for NQBP said this had been considered and rejected because studies showed it did not provide the best environmental outcome.

Meanwhile, a GBRMPA spokeswoman said the authority would consider the impact of dredging on the environment and social, cultural and heritage values of the marine park.

She said they would also consider written comments about the application and how dredging would impact upon public appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of the marine park.