Last Updated: May 17, 2017

Case summary: Abbot Point dredging

EDO Qld acted for Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) in their challenge to Environment Minister Hunt’s approval of  the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation’s (NQBP) application to undertake a program of dredging and dumping near Abbot Point to facilitate development of three new proposed port terminals: Terminal 0, Terminal 2 and Terminal 3.

The project proposed to dredge 3,000,000 m3 of seabed near Abbot Point, destroying 180 hectares of seagrass and to dump the dredged material approximately 24 km offshore from Abbot Point in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Approval was given by the Minister under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Protection Act 1999 (Cth) (EPBC Act) on 10 December 2013. The approval decision is available here.

MCG, represented by EDO Qld lawyers, challenged this decision in the Federal Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth), claiming there were a number of alleged errors of law in Minister Hunt’s EPBC Act approval.

Of particular importance to the case were the requirements under s137 of the EPBC Act, that the Minister’s decision cannot be inconsistent with the World Heritage Convention (Convention) or the Australian World Heritage Management Principles (Principles). Among the many potential grounds of review identified in relation to the decision was that the Minister’s decision was unlawful because it was inconsistent with the Convention and the Principles, and it was premised on an erroneous construction of the requirements of s137.

In June 2015, changes to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations commenced to ban capital dredge spoil dumping in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which meant that NQBP was unlikely to act on the approval. As a result, in November 2015 the case was dismissed with the consent of the parties.

Access to the Federal Court efile is also publicly available.

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