This official recognition of the impending death of the Great Barrier Reef coral ecosystem hides an unpublicised and deadly multiplier.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and its political masters, the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments, are actively facilitating maritime constructions along the coast of Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA), in defiance of UNESCO’s clear warnings that the GBRMPA should stop ignoring cumulative, combined and consequential impacts – “death by a thousand cuts” (UNESCO Mission Report 2012).
.Case study: Clump Point Mission Beach – a new island marina development (a 30-year aspiration of Senator Bob Katter and a handful of development speculators) in and affecting the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, and the Queensland Great Barrier Reef Coastal Marine Park.
This development has now been approved (and partial funding provided) by the Queensland and Commonwealth governments. The project began as a Queensland “major project of state significance” but was re-invented as “code-assessable” for automated intra-departmental tick-and- flick approval so that no public consultation was “required”.
The GBRMPA approval was more tricky: how to get past the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act and Regulations. This was explained to Bob Katter and Queensland officials by the GBRMPA Assessment Officer (audio record 2016) – the same officer who ultimately approved the Application.
The GBRMPA could not, however, avoid “public notification”. Hiding behind their minimalist and outmoded regulations (email correspondence GBRMPA-ASH), they chose to bury their unpredictably timed and appealable Approval notification deep in their website, failing to notify either submitters or the government-appointed, local, Project Reference Group members. This meant that anyone seeking a Reconsideration missed out or found out with little time to make the formal Request.
This is how the GBRMPA “protects” the GBRWHA from harm.
Similarly, the Queensland government failed to notify the public or the Project Reference Group, when referring the development proposal to the Commonwealth Environment Department as required under the EPBC Ac). The Department noted “no submissions” and happily approved it; perhaps unaware the public had not been notified., Nor did they know that the contents of the Application were misleading – an obvious reason for the Queensland government to keep the Referral from the knowledgeable non-government members of the Project Reference Group. By the time someone in the public found out, it was legally too late to make the appropriate submission.
"Coastal fringing coral reefs of the GBRWHA are succumbing not to climate change but to coastal development"
The project also avoided the Commonwealth Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act, purportedly because the environmental impacts could be ignored legally, depending on what descriptor was given to the rock structure (in fact a fully constructed artificial island is proposed, but described differently).
Meanwhile, on the coastal verge of the GBRWHA: it was easy to blame the farmers for coastal pollution reaching the outer reefs, and propose they abide by voluntary measures, after Queensland’s Bligh government abolished the only legislation that had used statutory zoning to protect the GBRWHA coast from “adverse impacts” (2012); followed by the Newman government abolishing riverine protection (2013).
Local councils followed with glee. Under Queensland government policy of not interfering in local council business, the Cassowary Coast Regional Council (CCRC) (covering the narrow coastal strip between the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the Wet Tropics of Queensland
Coastal fringing coral reefs of the GBRWHA are succumbing not to climate change but to coastal development, whether by direct destruction or by pollution (eg Magnetic Island, Cleveland Bay, Clump Point Mission Beach).
One further act of propaganda: while the Commonwealth cannot change the boundaries of the GBR World Heritage Area (low water mark along the mainland coast), they repeatedly change the boundaries of the GBR Marine Park (also low water mark along the mainland coast but with deviations) specifically to exclude new areas of dredging, seadumping and reclamation; or dismiss them from consideration as “de minimis” - a legal principle directly in conflict with Australia’s obligations under world heritage listing (Conservation, Rehabilitation, Presentation – “to the utmost”) and the direct statements of UNESCO that the GBRMPA must take into account cumulative, combined and consequential impacts precisely to avoid “death by a thousand cuts” (UNESCO Mission Report 2012). Today, August 2018, GBRMPA has not even drafted such a policy.
Margaret J Moorhouse
Alliance to Save Hinchinbrook Inc
PO Box 2457
Townsville Q 4810
0427 724 052