Law Reform · Nature & the Reef

Strategic Assessment – Great Barrier Reef – Have your say

17 January, 2014

The Federal Government has released a draft Strategic Assessment for the Great Barrier Reef. The Strategic Assessment is important because, once finalised, it will set the foundations for management of the Great Barrier Reef for the next 25 years. 

The strategic assessment was prepared in response to UNESCO's concerns about coastal development impacting on the Reef.

The Draft Strategic Assessment is currently presented in four draft reports now available for public comment until Friday 31 January 2014.

EDO QLD and EDO-NQ have done a preliminary analysis of the State Government’s Draft Program Report for the Coastal Zone of the Great Barrier Reef. Overall, the program falls well short of what is required to manage long term cumulative impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.  

Here are our top 12 issues so far:

  1. The Draft Program Report doesn’t incorporate Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) despite claiming ESD underpins the entire program.
  2. The Draft Program is misleading in its analysis of the Vegetation Management framework by omitting recent changes allowing for high value agricultural clearing, clearing in watercourses and clearing of regrowth vegetation.
  3. The current regulatory framework for Agricultural Run-Off is failing to address water quality issues on the reef
  4. The ‘avoid’ component of the framework (the Protected Area Estate) suggests there will be no development in these areas. This is misleading as ecotourism, Coal Seam Gas pipelines and other significant infrastructure is allowed in national parks. Also, less than 5% of Queensland is national park so only a tiny fraction of areas will be ‘avoided’.
  5. ‘Mitigation’ – viewed in the Report as ‘placing conditions on approvals’ – still allows unacceptable impacts on the Reef. Queensland’s draft offsets framework, which will seek accreditation for use with GBR approvals, lacks a rigorous scientific basis.
  6. The framework for threatened species protection in Queensland is poor. Queensland has been ranked the lowest in Australia in terms of management effectiveness according to the latest State of Environment Report (Australia)
  7. Not all MNES are considered in the program report – water resources and uranium activities are omitted. The report doesn’t acknowledge uranium could be shipped from Townsville.
  8. Plans to drive development of coal and CSG activities and ‘open up’ uranium and oil shale mining will contribute to impacts on the GBR. These plans are not addressed in the draft report.
  9. The report doesn’t acknowledge that there continues to be an deliberate removal of public consultation and ‘public interest’ third party submission and appeal rights.
  10. The Draft Ports Strategy (the ‘blueprint for port development in Queensland’) does not adequately address the cumulative and combined impacts of port development in the GBR.
  11. The mechanism of “Strategic Assessment” in Commonwealth environmental legislation may open the door for certain actions on Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to be undertaken without assessment
  12. The Report does not actually provide a mechanism to assess cumulative impacts

The private consulting firm SKM has also done an analysis of the Queensland Government’s part of the Draft Strategic Assessment see here.

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.