Deputy Premier offers reassurance on Great Barrier Reef
MUCH has been done since a damning critique of the Queensland Government's strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef's coastal zones, Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said on Thursday.
The independent review of the assessment by SKM, reported by APN on Wednesday, showed "limited attention" was given to dredging and port development, and the state's future management plans were unlikely to prevent further decline of the reef.
It was the second such critique of the overall strategic assessments, after the Australian Heritage Council highlighted similar concerns in the Commonwealth's marine zone strategic assessment.
But Mr Seeney said the state government remained committed to protecting the reef, citing $35 million the government will invest in water quality initiatives, focussed on "best practice agriculture production techniques".
It is understood the state government also completed some revisions of the draft assessment document after the SKM review, releasing the revised version on November 1, 2013; just days after the SKM report was completed, dated October 25.
However, some remaining changes to the strategic assessment were expected in coming months, before a final version will be given to the Federal Government in June this year.
Mr Seeney said since the draft assessment was completed in September last year, the government released its port strategy, which prohibited new expansions outside of the existing ports for 10 years - partly consistent with the World Heritage Committee's recommendations.
"What is not often acknowledged, is that we have reduced planned dredging at one of these ports - Abbot Point - from 38 million cubic metres under the previous Labor Government to just three million cubic metres," Mr Seeney said in a statement.
"The responsibility for the disposal of dredge material in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park rests with the Commonwealth Government."
However, Mr Seeney did not respond to questions regarding what other future management actions the state planned, particularly regarding managing future dredging and climate change impacts - concerns raised in SKM's review.
Rather, he pointed to Australian Institute of Marine Science research that highlighted the past causes of coral loss were storms and cyclones, crowns of thorns starfish and coral bleaching "not dredging or shipping".
Mr Seeney said the AIMS report was something "our green detractors also don't make mention of".
While the AIMS research highlighted the past causes of past coral loss on the reef, more recent dredge modelling by SKM released in June last year, highlighted potential wider and longer lasting impacts of dumping dredge spoil near the reef.
"The study is the first to incorporate the effects of large-scale currents in the region in modelling dredge material migration and model dredge material migration over a period of 12 months," that study found.
"A key result is the finding that dredge material placed at sea has the potential to migrate on much greater spatial and temporal scales than has previously been appreciated."
The Commonwealth reported to the World Heritage Committee on both state and federal efforts to protect the reef in February, with the committee to officially consider that report in June.