Group warns dredge dumping shouldn't hit taxpayers' pockets

TAXPAYERS should not be forced to foot the bill for the state government's move to ensure dredged spoil from Abbot Point is dumped on-shore, and not in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park says Dr Libby Connors.

Reports in the Weekend Australian on Saturday revealed Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney planned to put a new plan to Cabinet on Monday to ensure the dredged spoil was not dumped offshore.

Mr Seeney told The Australian he was seeking a "green light" from Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to make sure the three million cubic metres of sediment planned to be dredged at the port was put on land.

The reports followed revelations last week that the proponent, North Queensland Bulk Ports, was considering such a plan, after the landowner of the defunct Bowen salt works offered to take the spoil to fill in salt pans.

But environmental group Save the Reef has urged the state government to ensure the cost of any changes to the plans were not met by taxpayers.

While Save the Reef spokeswoman Dr Libby Connors welcomed the plans not to dispose of the spoil offshore, she said any promise that "onshore disposal will protect the reef is hollow".

"In Gladstone Port when federal environment department officers approved a modification of the bund wall to retain dredge spoil, it was an engineering failure," she said.

"It caused an environmental disaster with tonnes of silt polluting Gladstone Harbour."

Dr Connors said even without dumping offshore, the dredging itself could "spread unacceptable levels of siltation", despite pledges from Mr Hunt the project would be subject to "strict conditions".

Reports on the weekend quoted Mr Seeney as saying the alternative the state government hoped to put forward could still meet the developers' planned start date of March next year.

But Dr Connors said it seemed the state government was "working to the coal company's timelines" to "rush approval despite the ecologically sensitive region in which their port is located".

No changes have been put forward to the Federal Government to vary the project since it was approved early this year. - APN NEWSDESK



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