An awful lot has been happening on laws relating to the health of our Great Barrier Reef lately. Aside from the Great Barrier Reef Strategic Assessment, which is currently open for comment, the State Government has released a Draft Ports Strategy which is meant to set the overall framework for port development for the next 10 years.
Whilst the Draft Strategy places a ban on capital dredging outside of existing ports of Brisbane, Gladstone, Hay Point/Mackay, Abbot Point and Townsville it does not prohibit development outside of those areas which do not require capital dredging. This could include, for example, landside developments, or the construction of jetties/barging operations to ships in naturally deep water.
Problematically, the draft strategy also says that the restriction on new developments does not apply to proposals which are currently the subject of an active Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process or currently designated as a Coordinated Project by the Queensland Government. This will include many projects which are currently being assessed or about to be assessed, including for instance, the proposed massive Aquis Resort. UNESCO has clearly set out it’s concerns that decisions over the next 1-2 years will really be crucial to the long term conservation of the Reef (see here)
In the end, the Draft Ports Strategy considers far too short a time frame (only 10 years) and runs contrary to the ultimate concerns of UNESCO about increased development affecting the Reef.