Friday, 04 January 2013 09:30
Environmentalists studying the Queensland Government's own figures show the building of new coal ports in and near the Great Barrier Reef is not necessary.
WWF Australia said the State Government's Great Barrier Reef Ports Strategy Economic Analysis showed coal ports in the region were only operating at 52 per cent of their planned capacity.
WWF spokesman Nick Heath said the state did not need more coal terminals, such as those planned for Abbot Point.
"Existing infrastructure can meet this demand. We just need to use it more efficiently," Mr Heath said.
"Why waste billions of dollars building new ports when we dont use the ones we have already? Why risk damaging an international icon like the Great Barrier Reef?"
Queensland Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the government needed to start planning for expansion.
"Port infrastructure must be planned and constructed to meet the demands of resource projects far into the future," Mr Seeney said.
"Quite simply, our resource sector would be totally uncompetitive if companies waited until demand emerged before providing export infrastructure."
The draft ports strategy, which has just undergone public consultation, forms part of Australia's response to a scathing report from the UN's environmental arm UNESCO on the reef's environmental management.
UNESCO warns the reef could be listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger if Australia cannot convince the international body it is managing risks to the area, particularly from coastal development.
The report recommended Australia not allow port developments other than those already established.
Australia is due to respond to UNESCO before 1 February.
The Australian Marine Conservation Society said the Newman government's port expansion plans were a serious threat to the reef and Australia's reputation as its custodian.
"Plans to expand current and build new ports will affect the feeding and breeding ground of the reef's unique species and result in thousands more ships ploughing through the reef each year," society spokeswoman Felicity Wishart said on Friday.
"Just before Christmas the government called for expressions of interest to develop the world's biggest coal terminal less than 50km from the iconic Whitsundays.
"The Queensland Government seems determined to support the mining industry at any cost."
Ms Wishart said that since 1993, there have been five collisions and nine groundings near the reef, with human error to blame for the vast majority of those incidents.
"More ships risks more accidents, more spills and more wildlife killed. More ports means more dredging of the nurseries of our fish (and) seagrass feeding grounds for turtles and dugongs."
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