News National We’ve improved Reef protection: Hunt

We’ve improved Reef protection: Hunt

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· Reef dredging project gets green light
How we’ll make the Barrier Reef great again

A new report shows significant progress is being made to improve the management, health and protection of the Great Barrier Reef, federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt says.

Mr Hunt and his Queensland counterpart Andrew Powell publicly released their 2014 State Party Report on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area on Sunday.

The report comes just two days after the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority approved the dumping of up to three million tonnes of dredge spoil inside the park boundary.

The federal and Queensland governments had already approved the dumping, but said there were strict environmental conditions attached.

Mr Hunt says the new report shows Australia has made substantial progress and commitment in responding to the requests of the World Heritage Committee.

“In close cooperation with the Queensland government, we are boosting the conservation of the reef through a range of approaches both on land and in the marine environment,” he said in a statement.

“This includes carrying out the comprehensive strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef, an ongoing commitment to the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan and continuing strict protection under national environment laws.”

Mr Powell said he was confident both government’s efforts would meet the World Heritage Committee expectations regarding reef management.

Queensland Resource Council chief Michael Roche congratulated the Australian and Queensland government for their “fine work being done to turn around the health of the reef”.

“Flying in the face of the hysterical reaction from some quarters to the granting on Friday of a dredging permit at Abbot Point, the State Party report identifies impacts from port development and dredging as minor, temporary and localised,” he said in a statement.

“I urge everyone interested in the health of the reef to read the State Party Report.”

Although Mr Roche also pointed out that economic contribution of the resource sector, which relies on ports near the reef, has been overlooked in the report.

Greenpeace argues the report findings fly in the face of recent resource development approvals which threaten the reef.

“Both the coalition and Labor have shown no hesitation in approving coal and gas developments that will harm the Great Barrier Reef,” Greenpeace campaigner Louise Matthiesson said.

[polldaddy poll=7766069]The report should do little to sway UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee from placing the reef on the “in danger” list when it considers the issue mid-2014, she added.

“It’s laughable for the Australian government to claim they’re doing everything they can to protect the reef … they have ignored UNESCO’s concerns and thumbed their nose at the international community.”

Ms Matthiesson listed as major concerns the approval of three mega-coal mines in the Galilee Basin, two rail-lines to transport the coal to the coast, three new coal and gas terminals and the dredging and dumping of 3 million cubic metres of seabed inside the World Heritage Area.