Media Releases · Energy & Climate

MCG launches legal action against dredging and dumping approval

24 March, 2014

Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) will today commence court proceedings in Brisbane’s Federal Court challenging Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s decision to approve dredging and dumping within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The Mackay Conservation Group is represented by the lawyers at the EDO Qld and supported by thousands of Australians, including GetUp! members, who have donated to fund the action to protect the Reef from the impact of dredging and dumping.

The case will centre on the Federal Government’s decision to approve dredging and dumping for the proposed export coal terminal at Abbot Point, less than 50kms from the Whitsunday Islands. In a novel test for Australia’s environment laws, Mackay Conservation Group will argue that the Minister has failed in his obligation to protect the World Heritage Area.

Ellen Roberts, Co-ordinator of the Mackay Conservation Group said the dredging and dumping is a damaging practice that could ruin the Reef, and the Minister’s decision has to be challenged.

‘The world will be watching this case. The World Heritage Committee has expressed concern over the Australian and Queensland governments’ efforts to protect the Reef, particularly from mega-port development and the associated dredging and dumping.

‘Mackay Conservation Group has a proud thirty year history of protecting the Reef and the local environment in our region. We believe that this case has implications for all of the development of state-owned ports and trans-shipping proposals along the Great Barrier Reef and the World Heritage Committee’s looming decision over whether to list the Reef as ‘in danger’.

‘The issues in this case have not been tested before in Federal Court. Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) states that the Australian government must protect World Heritage properties. A successful case could have implications for the protection of other Australian World Heritage sites.

Donations from thousands of GetUp! members and other conservation groups right across the country allowed the case to go ahead.

GetUp’s campaigns director Erin McCallum said she had never seen so many GetUp members dig so deep and so quickly: ‘17,500 people from all walks of life, fishermen, teachers, farmers and accountants donated to make this case happen.’

‘After an incredible response, with many donations of $5, $10 and $30, GetUp members have been able to commit $150,000 to supporting this significant legal case. We’re proud to throw our support behind the Mackay Conservation Group to take on this important legal case.’

‘Following a $150,000 commitment to the North Queensland Conservation Council’s sea dumping case, GetUp members have now contributed a remarkable $300,000 to challenging these decisions in the courts.”

“The Reef generates $5.6 billion for the economy every year and sustains 69,000 full time jobs. If we protect the Reef, we protect Australia's economy,” said GetUp’s Erin McCallum.