Photo: Scott Sporleder

Plan to Dump Dredge Soil on Great Barrier Reef Approved. Does Australia Care?

Australia Sustainability
by Katie Scott Aiton Feb 1, 2014

NEWS CAME through here in Australia that the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) has approved a proposal to dump dredge spoil from Abbot Point coal terminal in the reef.

In order to create a multi-billion-dollar coal port in Abbot Point — the world’s largest — the authority prevailing over the UNESCO World Heritage site just gave the green light to go ahead with the plan. Dredging is required to allow large ships access to the port.

The Authority Chairman, Dr. Russell Reichelt, proclaimed,

Abbot Point is better placed than other ports along the Great Barrier Reef coastline to undertake expansion as the capital and maintenance dredging required will be significantly less than what would be required in other areas.

A ‘must do’ for ‘vital national development’?

Since the beginning of January this year, 233 scientists have signed a petition to GBRMPA insisting that they reject the plan. Environmental groups have also rallied against the decision.

“This go-ahead for dumping is one more body blow for the reef, which further threatens marine life, its World Heritage status, and Australia’s tourism and fishing industries,” Greenpeace Reef Campaigner Louise Matthiesson said.

The reef has been facing a fragile future due to climate change, an overpopulation of starfish, and land-driven pollution. It seems like environmental groups already have enough on their plate. Last year, UNESCO warned that the reef could be high on the World Heritage list of sites in danger, unless action was taken to protect it.

I took to the promenade of Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, to check in with the locals.

What do you think of the approval to dump dredge soil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park area?

    “It makes me ashamed to be Australian.” ~ Alexandrea, age 28, from Canberra

    “I don’t know anything about it.” ~ Timothy, age 45, from Sydney

    “What’s next for this government? They’re losing it.” ~ Jonathan, age 31, from Newcastle

    “Yeah I also hear they are doing a mass cull of sharks in Western Australia.” ~ Jezza, age 19, from Sydney

    “Not my problem, wanna come for a surf?” ~ Christian, age 29, from Melbourne

The majority of Australians I spoke to knew nothing about the vote, nor the approval.

It seems to be raining ignorance here in Sydney today. With news of Pharrell William’s massive Grammys hat dominating conversation, discussion of a threat to the Great Barrier Reef has been boxed in the corner, labeled “Sorry this is way too heavy bro!”

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