Campaign to stop reef dredging gets international attention

A FEROCIOUS campaign to stop dredge spoil being dumped in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is catching international attention, but tourism advocates are hoping potential visitors can see past the publicity.

The expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal will involve dumping dredged material - sand and clay - into the World Heritage-listed marine park, although the three proposed dump sites are devoid of reef and seagrass.

Conservation groups, including the World Wildlife Foundation and Australian Marine Conservation Society, have publicly fought the plans warning they risk damaging the national icon.

Meanwhile a British newspaper has asked "Is Tony Abbott's Australian administration the most hostile to his nation's environment in history".

The newspaper reports the Abbot Point expansion will involve "millions of tonnes of sludge" being dumped into the reef waters.

Tourism and Events Queensland - the state's key tourism body - is understood to be listening closely to its overseas outposts to find out if the green campaign is affecting the tourism market..

It referred questions to the Queensland Tourism Industry Council.

QTIC chief Daniel Gschwind said it was "somewhat cynical" to blame opponents for any potential damage to the reef's reputation.

"It's the action itself that is causing the attention," he said.

"I think we all have the same interest in showing the truthful story can be told that is not too damaging to this country."

Mr Gschwind said the peak tourism body did not oppose the coal port's expansion, only the dumping of sand and clay into the reef area.

"We have to acknowledge that we have to do better when it comes to managing the cumulative impacts of massive proposed developments," he said.

According to the state's North Queensland Bulk Ports - the owners of Abbot Point - there is no scientific or historical evidence to support those warnings.

The 3 million cubic metres of sediment being moved is smaller than earlier campaigns expanding the Port of Hay Point, outside Mackay.

Abbot Point's expansion and dredging was approved by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the reef's regulators.

State Tourism Minister Jann Stuckey failed to answer questions on the issue, but said the State Government was "committed to the reef's protection".