Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s advice to Environment Minister on Abbot Point to be made public

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The Senate has passed the Greens’ order for production of documents today to establish whether the Environment Minister was aware of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s internal warnings against approving the Abbot Point coal port expansion.

Documents released under Freedom of Information show the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority internally found the Abbot Point coal port expansion would cause irreversible damage that would be impossible to offset.

 “We need to know whether the current Environment Minister saw these documents before approving the Abbot Point coal port expansion,” Senator Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said.

“If Minister Hunt didn’t see the documents, he must now consider this new information and reconsider his approval.

“Under our national environment law, where new information comes to light, approval decisions can be revisited.

“If Minister Hunt did know about these documents, and yet ignored the science saying the Reef damage could not be offset, it shows he is unfit to be the Environment Minister,” Senator Waters said.

The documents are due next Thursday, 27 March, 2014.

Text of order for production of documents:

That there be laid on the table no later than noon 27 March 2014 by the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, draft or final documents after 1 June 2013 relating to the internal concerns of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) with the following applications by North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, including Departmental or Ministerial briefings and any documents which were given to the Minister:

1.      Application for an approval under Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 for proposed capital dredging at Abbot Point (EPBC 2011/6213)

2.      Application for a permit under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations 1983 to dump Abbot Point dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (ref 34897 dated 6 January 2012)

3.      Application dated 4 March 2013 for a permit under the Environmental Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 to dump Abbot Point dredge spoil at sea.