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Abbott and Newman Governments need to avert a Reef ‘In Danger’ downgrade through action, not secret lobbying

Instead of wasting time with a secret trip to lobby the World Heritage Committee, as reported today, the Abbott and Newman governments should be following the World Heritage Committee’s recommendations, say the Australian Greens.

“The World Heritage Committee is an expert committee – members will judge Australia’s management of the Great Barrier Reef on the way the Abbott and Newman governments are allowing the Reef to become a dumping ground for dredge spoil and a super highway for coal ships,” Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said.

“The World Heritage Committee isn’t going to be fooled by some secret lobbying mission by Ministers Hunt and Powell, who instead should be trying to reverse the damage they’re inflicting on the Reef to avert an ‘In Danger’ listing.

“Nobody wants the Reef to end up on the ‘In Danger’ list, which would be a disaster for the tourism industry.

“But the best way to stop an ‘In Danger’ listing is to do what the World Heritage Committee is recommending, rather than the opposite as the Newman and Abbott governments insist on.

“The World Heritage Committee recommended no new development approvals that would impact the universal outstanding value of the Reef and criticised the approval of the Abbot Point coal port expansion.

“Yet the Abbott and Newman governments are charging ahead with the world’s largest coal port at Abbot Point, to dredge, dump and ship in the Reef’s waters.

“The plan floated by the Newman Government to have taxpayers pay for the big mining companies to dump the Abbot Point dredge spoil on the coast, next to or on the internationally significant Caley Valley wetlands, is the second cheapest and dirtiest option to dumping directly in the Reef’s waters, and it won’t impress the World Heritage Committee.

“The World Heritage Committee also recommend no new ports in pristine areas  and yet the Fitzroy Delta has still not been protected.

“The committee’s recommendations to put a hold on development approvals until a long term plan for the Reef and not to prematurely hand federal approval powers to state governments have also gone ignored by the Abbott Government.

“There’s been no commitments to stop the mass dredging and dumping planned near Cairns, Townsville and Gladstone, threatening to turn the Reef into a dump ground for dredge sludge, which travels to smother corals and dugong feeding grounds.

“I have legislation in the federal Parliament to ban offshore dumping in the Reef and to implement the World Heritage Committee recommendations. If the old parties genuinely want to stop an ‘In Danger’ downgrade, they should support my bills,” Senator Waters said.  

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