Aerial of the Great Barrier Reef.
Aerial of the Great Barrier Reef. C Veron

Senate inquiry examines management of Great Barrier Reef

NO MORE approvals should be given to ports to dump dredged spoil in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, a Senate inquiry has told the Abbott Government.

A report from the inquiry examining the management of the Great Barrier Reef was released to parliament late on Wednesday, recommending Environment Minister Greg Hunt should also investigate a "cap or ban" on dredge spoil dumping in the World Heritage Area.

The inquiry, which looked at port development, agricultural run-off, climate change and other factors affecting the reef also examined controversial developments underway in Gladstone harbour and proposed at Abbot Point near Mackay.

On the basis of two case studies of each development, government inquiries and recent audits, the committee further recommended Mr Hunt provide more staff and resources to his department's compliance division to better do its job.

However, it stopped short of recommending the Royal Commission into Gladstone harbor, which some witnesses had called for during hearings.

The committee also proposed expanding its planned audits of the reef's management, including initiating an "audit of the performance of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority".

Mr Hunt is yet to respond to the report, while Greens Senator Larissa Waters said it was time the government "caught up" and banned dredge dumping in the reef's World Heritage Area - which includes some port areas.

Senator Waters said she would be moving a bill in the Senate today to both ban offshore dumping in the reef's World Heritage Area, which would also be backdated to make the proposed Abbot Pt dumping "illegal".

The report also follows news earlier this week that the proponents of the Abbot Pt dredging project may be considering putting three million cubic metres of dredge spoil on land, rather than dumping it offshore in the marine park.

Mr Hunt has said he would prefer such options were explored, but as no formal application had yet been made, he could only assess it once a permit variation was filed.

The Queensland Resources Council welcomed the report's release, but said it would not support any "blanket bans" on dredge spoil dumping, but it did support "increased resources" being directed at the reef.

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