The Queensland government is downplaying the effects of dredging on the Great Barrier Reef because it is bending to the wishes of the coal industry, Greenpeace says.
The federal government approved a major coal port expansion and dredging at Abbot Point in northern Queensland last week.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) is yet to grant a permit for the developers to dump three million cubic metres of dredged spoils in the reef’s waters.
Green groups say this will irreversibly damage the reef but the Queensland government has accused them of spreading mistruths and wanting to shut down the coal industry.
The government also said the majority of dredging material is clean sand that can easily be settled and the dumping would occur far away from coral reefs.
Greenpeace Queensland campaigner Louise Matthiesson told AAP the dredging material is not just clean sand but there are mud and other toxic substances that can damage the reef.
“The Queensland government needs to stop being a cheerleader for the coal industry,” Ms Matthiesson said.
“We will be urging the marine authority to give priority to the reef and not grant the permit.”
Ms Matthiesson also said dumping would occur 10 to 15 kilometres from the Holbourne Island National Park off far north Queensland’s coastal town of Bowen and the dredge soil could drift and smother nearby coral reef.
She said Greenpeace will look into legal options if GBRMPA granted the permit and seeking to know if the authority plans to make a decision before Christmas.
A GBRMPA spokeswoman last week said the matter was being considered by a delegate nominated by its chairman Russell Reichelt.