Plans to use the Great Barrier Reef as a dumping site for 3 million cubic metres of dredged material from the ocean floor will be abandoned by a multinational consortium, the Australian Financial Review reports.
North Queensland Bulk Ports, GVK Hancock and Adani Group will alter plans to expand the Abbot Point coal terminal, a proposal which had already been approved by federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
The trio are set to re-submit a proposal as early as this week to Mr Hunt, however details of alternate dumping sites are not known.
The development comes days after Whitsundays MP George Christensen took out local newspaper advertisements telling readers he wanted an investigation into alternate, land-based dredge spoil disposal sites.
“I didn’t foresee the angst the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef marine park would cause to tourism operators and to residents in the Whitsundays,” he wrote.
On Tuesday, Mr Christensen said he was surprised to hear reports a proposal for a land-based solution could be lodged soon.
“If there is a land-based option that emerges, I want to see it, Greg Hunt wants to see it, we all want to see it,” he said.
He said he would give “100 per cent support” to a viable land option “so we can stop the squabbling and get it underway”.
The Australian Financial Review said sources had played down the likelihood that a disused saltworks near the north Queensland town of Bowen could be used as a dumping site.
A spokesman for North Queensland Bulk Ports said fresh options for onshore dumping were being considered, but said no decisions had yet been made.
Offshore dumping was the original preferred option because it was considered the least environmentally invasive, the spokesman said.
A spokesman for Adani Group said the Indian-based company was committed to ensuring the project was achieved with the best outcome for the environment.
Greens spokeswoman for the environment Larissa Waters said the consortium’s change of heart was a “huge win” for groups that had campaigned against the expansion.
However, she said it may not be the end of opposition to the project.
“Onshore disposal of the Abbot Point dredge sludge would be a better outcome environmentally and for the tourism industry than dumping in the reef’s World Heritage waters,” she told the Australian Financial Review.
“However, the environmental problems of increased shipping through the reef and the export of millions of tonnes of coal to exacerbate climate change would remain.”
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