A federal inquiry will investigate a major central Queensland port expansion accused of causing a mass die-off of marine life.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced on Monday he’ll launch an independent commission of inquiry into dredging designed to accommodate liquefied natural gas exports at Gladstone Harbour.
Local fishermen have blamed the dredging project for a disease outbreak in 2011, which killed numerous fish, turtles, dugongs and other marine life.
The state-owned Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) has continually denied this and on Monday, sought to have a compensation claim by the fishermen thrown out of the Planning and Environment Court in Brisbane.
The matter was adjourned to April 15.
The GPC’s former environmental manager John Broomhead told media last week the design and size of the wall retaining the toxic material dredged up was a failure.
He said the wall started to leak in August 2011 and contributed to elevated turbidity in the harbour.
A spokesman for Mr Hunt says it’s not clear whether the inquiry will look into whether the dredging project caused a mass die-off of local marine life.
However, Mr Hunt has confirmed it will look into the failure of the retaining wall and is likely to examine any links between the federal and state Labor Party and the state-owned ports corporation.
“There has clearly been a failure in the bund wall,” Mr Hunt said.
“The inquiry will seek to determine if this was a failure of design or execution.
“It’s a chance to find out what lessons can be learnt and to determine if action needs to be taken.”
He said the terms of reference would be announced shortly and the inquiry would start soon.
Former Gladstone fisherman Trevor Falzon has urged more whistleblowers like Mr Broomhead to come forward.
“People who have been involved in all of this should come forward and tell us the real truth here,” he said.
“I think there are quite a fair few skeletons in the closet and I think they all should be coming out if they have a conscience.”
Despite being a fisherman for 28 years, Mr Falzon said the disaster has put him and many others out of business and has placed the local ecosystem under enormous environmental stress.
“It’s not all about dollar and profits for some corporation to put in their pockets,” he said.
“We’ve (Gladstone’s fishermen) had divorces, split ups and bankruptcies.”
Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk says Labor has nothing to fear from its time in office.
“No, not at all,” she said.
“These are very serious issues and they need to be investigated.”