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Dredging and Dumping in the Great Barrier Reef

Estimates & Committees
Larissa Waters 12 Jan 2012

Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
Answers to questions on notice
Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities portfolio
Supplementary Budget Estimates, October 2011

Senator Waters asked:
1. What advice did GBRMPA give Minister Burke regarding the impacts of dumping the dredge spoil right near the boundaries of the marine parks area, when the various LNG dredging proposals were to be approved?
2. What are cumulative figures of dredging in WHA approved in the last five years? Please provide advice regarding the approved projects (quantity of material to be dredged, location, timing of dredging). Please provide same for approved offshore dumping.
3. What are cumulative figures of dredging in WHA currently applied for? Please provide advice regarding the applied-for projects (quantity of material to be dredged, location, timing of dredging).
4. What are cumulative figures of offshore dumping of dredge spoil in WHA approved in the last five years? What are cumulative figures of offshore dumping in WHA currently applied for? Please provide advice regarding the approved and applied-for projects (quantity of material to be dumped, location, timing).

Answer:
1. Advice was provided to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (the department) by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) on the Gladstone Port Western Basin Dredging and Disposal project in the course of assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and subsequent advice by the department to the Minister. Initial advice provided in April 2009 included reference to the likely impacts of the dredge plume, as well as the direct impacts on seagrass and other benthic communities.
In August 2010 the GBRMPA was asked to comment on the Gladstone Western Basin Draft Conditions. Comments included:
• Some conditions of the draft permit were unclear and could imply approval for potential sea disposal in locations that may be inside the Marine Park;
• The need to sample for total suspended solids and organic carbon in addition to light attenuation;
• Timeframes for reporting of exceedance of trigger values needed to be included; and
• The water quality monitoring program should be consistent with the Water Quality Guidelines for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (2009).
All GBRMPA's advice was considered by the department and all specific comments were incorporated into the final approval conditions.
The Port of Gladstone Spoil Disposal site has been in use for several decades. Expansion of the shipping channel and spoil disposal at the site occurred between 1980 and 2000, reports available indicate that during that time 23.3 million cubic metres of spoil had been deposited at the spoil ground. Much of the spoil disposal occurred during two major dredging operations in 1980/81 and 1986/87 which resulted in disposal of 12 and 7 million cubic metres of material at the spoil site.
Monitoring over that period found that the material was to the greatest extent retained on the site and did not affect areas 2km off the site.
2. The cumulative dredging volume approved under the EPBC Act in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area in the last five years (since 1 January 2007) is 52,581,000 m3.
3. The dredging volume in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area currently applied for and being assessed under the EPBC Act is 60,603,000 m3. There are also a number of proposals being assessed for which dredging volumes are yet to be provided.
4. The total amount of offshore dumping approved in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area in the last five years (since 1 January 2007) is 22,124,000 m3. The amount of offshore dumping currently under application under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 is 2,013,000 m3.

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