Queensland plan unlikely to save Great Barrier Reef

THE Queensland Government's coastal zone strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef did not pay enough attention to dredging and port developments, an independent review has found.

The independent report, by consultants SKM for the federal Environment Department, also found Queensland's current draft future management plans will likely fail to halt the decline of the reef.

It singled out the deteriorating southern parts of the reef, areas including Gladstone Harbour and Abbot Point, and "limited attention" paid to concerns surrounding dredging and coastal development.

Ordered by the previous federal government, the review was quietly released on the department's website, before the Abbott Government reported to the World Heritage Committee on the dual assessments in February.

Two separate strategic assessments, one by the state on coastal zones and the other by the Commonwealth on marine areas, were pursued after Queensland last year walked away from pursuing a joint assessment.

It is the second damning critique of the assessments, after the Australian Heritage Council a fortnight ago told APN of its serious concerns that the Commonwealth's side of the assessment would fail to address the WHC's concerns.

The SKM report echoed the Heritage Council's concerns about a lack of specific management targets, initiatives, or resources put towards managing the reef.

Both parts of the assessment will inform the next 25 years of environmental management of the reef, with Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt reporting "significant progress" on the WHC's concerns in February this year.

The WHC will decide in June this year whether enough has been done, despite the final versions of the assessments not due for release until June, which may miss the deadline for the committee's meeting.

While the SKM report acknowledged the state government's assessment addressed most of the terms of reference, it has lent credibility to concerns about the plans for future management of the reef.

"Issues relevant to the 25 year time frame of the program receive less attention (in the assessment), such as managing for resilience in response to ocean acidification and climate change," it reads.

"When considered collectively, the forward commitments do not appear to be the appropriate actions or to be supported with sufficient resources to halt the declining condition of matters of national environmental significance and achieve their long-term conservation."

The report also said the collective "future management commitments" did not appear "sufficient to halt the declining condition" of the reef's natural heritage values.

It also criticised a lack of detail on the impacts of dredging and port development in the assessment, including that "descriptions do not acknowledge the broader spatial scale of shipping activities and the cumulative impacts of multiple ports alone the coast".

"More detail on port development was expected, particularly in light of the World Heritage Committee's concerns about port expansions throughout the Great barrier Reef's coastal zone," it reads.

The report also said the state's assessment of the management of dredging and the disposal of dredged material was "overly simplified" and did not refer to the national assessment guidelines for dredging.

Response was sought from the Queensland Government prior to filing.