It is our view that Queensland’s current legislative framework is seriously flawed and requires significant reform to provide adequate protection and management of the Reef.
Environmental Defenders Office Qld (EDO Qld) and Environmental Defenders Office (Northern Qld) (EDO NQ) welcome the opportunity to provide a submission on the management of the coastal zone of the Great Barrier Reef (the Reef).
The practical effect of the suite of recent and proposed changes to Queensland’s laws and regulations are not reflected in the Draft Coastal Zone Strategic Assessment Program Report (Coastal Program Report). The ‘forward commitments’ outlined in the reports will not stop the decline, nor improve the Outstanding Universal Value of the Reef.
It is clearly inappropriate to use the Coastal Program Report:
- As the basis for a long-term sustainability plan, or
- To be accredited under an approval bilateral agreement, without Commonwealth approval under the EPBC Act; or
- To be endorsed by the Commonwealth Minister and for certain actions to be permitted without individual assessments and approvals required (under Part 10 EPBC Act).
The Coastal Program Report does not address the following issues, which will require legislative reform if they are to be used in any future version of the Coastal Program Report:
- The purpose and effect of the Strategic Assessment under the EPBC Act should be made clear;
- The forward commitments are far too weak to halt the decline of the Reef;
- Port development is not adequately managed for the protection of the OUV of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area;
- The principles of ecologically sustainable development are not relevant considerations under key Acts regulating development in Queensland;
- Protection for native vegetation has been scaled back by recent amendments to the Vegetation Management Act 1999; and
- Adequate steps are not being taken to reduce agricultural run-off, one of the biggest impacts on the health of the Reef.
EDO Qld and EDO NQ have provided a range of recommendations and detailed submissions on these issues and others.