Shelve new ports to save Great Barrier Reef: UN report
21/06/2012 - The Great Barrier Reef could be listed as a World Heritage site in danger unless high-risk coastal developments including new ports are shelved, a United Nations report says.
The report says no new port developments, and associated infrastructure, should be allowed outside those that already exist adjacent to the reef.
It says the scale of coastal development - including 35 new development proposals awaiting determination by 2013 - represents a significant risk to the reef's future.
And the scale and pace of development proposals seem "beyond the capacity for independent, quality and transparent decision making," it says.
The report, by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, also identifies water quality as among the most significant risks to the reef.
The document is the result of a UN monitoring mission to the reef in March.
A more brief summary of the mission's findings was released earlier this month.
But the longer document paints a much more scathing assessment of the failures of state and federal authorities to properly protect the World Heritage-listed asset.
The report says the environmental quality of parts of the reef ecosystem - most notably inshore areas of the reef south of Cooktown - has declined since the World Heritage area was inscribed in 1981.
While the reef does not currently meet the requirements for it to be listed as a World Heritage Site in danger, that could change without concerted remedial action, it says.
The report says new ports could create "a significant and largely irreversible negative impact" on the outstanding universal value of the reef.
It also says developments in Gladstone Harbour and on Curtis Island, where plants are being built to process coal seam gas into liquefied natural gas, are affecting the health of the reef.
There must be an independent review of the environmental concerns surrounding work on Curtis Island and in the harbour, where a massive dredging operation is underway to widen and deepen it to facilitate gas exports, the report says.
The report also calls for ongoing investment in programs to address water quality issues.
"Should any of the most threatening developments proceed further towards consent and water quality measures do not continue to show a positive trend, the mission concludes that the World Heritage Committee should consider the possibility of listing the property as being in danger," it says.
The federal government has already committed to one of the report's primary recommendations - to carry out a strategic assessment of the reef which will look at all threats and how the impact of development can be mitigated.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has said his government will be part of the federal government's assessment process.
As part of that, the state government will compile a ports strategy, refine its coastal plan and create regional strategies for land management matters related to the reef.
But before signing up to the assessment process, Newman said halting port and industry development along Queensland's coast was not an option.
"We will protect the environment but we are not going to see the economic future of Queensland shut down," Newman said when the report's initial findings were released earlier this month.
Authorities are investigating rice mills in southern China following tests...
NSW needs a container deposit scheme because it will reduce litter and won't...
Up to three quarters of South Australia's civil construction businesses are...
More oil spills will occur in western Queensland if the state government...
Sydney's traffic snarls are costing business and making workers tired, late...