The Abbott Government’s State Party report to the World Heritage Committee on the Great Barrier Reef, released over the weekend, is shameless spin and raises concerns that Reef Rescue funding will be decreased, say the Australian Greens.
“The government is using greenwash and spin to try and distract from the Reef dredging, dumping and shipping that it’s letting the big mining companies get away with,” Senator Larissa Waters, Australian Greens environment spokesperson, said.
“Alarmingly, the report lists reduced funding for Reef Rescue, an already under-resourced program that works with farmers to reduce agricultural runoff to the Reef, citing it at $140 million, which is $60 million short of the $200 million originally committed.
“I call on Environment Minister Hunt to urgently clarify whether Reef Rescue funding is being cut, just as it is most needed.
“Cutting Reef Rescue, on top of letting the big mining companies trash the Reef with dredging, dumping and shipping, would seriously risk the Reef’s World Heritage status being downgraded to ‘In Danger’ when the World Heritage Committee meets to decide this in June.
“The World Heritage Committee has repeatedly warned that the Reef needs a moratorium on new developments until a long-term plan is completed, and that new ports and damaging port expansions should be ruled out.
“Yet the Newman Government’s draft Port Strategy does not rule out new ports or stop mass dredging for projects already proposed.
“And instead of a moratorium on damaging developments, as the World Heritage Committee recommended, the pace of approvals has continued unabated.
“The Abbott Government has approved the Abbot Point Coal port expansion, as well as a fourth CSG plant on Curtis Island and Clive Palmer’s mega coal mine in the Galilee Basin, which will both export through the Reef.
“And just last week, another 3 million cubic metres of sludge was approved for offshore dumping in the Reef’s World Heritage waters for the Abbot Point coal port expansion.
“It’s shameful that the government is siding with the big mining companies and it’s been left to the community and family-owned tourism businesses to try and defend the Reef from the Abbot Point dumping through legal action.
“When Parliament resumes, the Greens will introduce legislation to ensure the World Heritage Committee’s recommendations to save the Reef are adopted, and offshore dumping of sludge from dredging is stopped.
“If the old parties don’t want to see our Reef end up on the World Heritage ‘In Danger’ list, they will support the Greens’ moves to strengthen our Reef protection laws,” Senator Waters said.