Soothing nerves about the Great Barrier Reef

IT IS the plan to soothe international nerves about the state government's treatment of the Great Barrier Reef, but Jeff Seeney, the Deputy Queensland Premier, uses the first dozen words of the new Queensland Ports Strategy to say trade must be the priority.

"It is an undeniable fact that Queensland is a trading economy," he writes in the foreword.

The new guidelines ban any new port development or expansion outside set coastal areas for a decade.

These five set zones or Priority Port Development Areas cover ports of Abbot Point, Brisbane, Gladstone, Hay Point, Mackay and Townsville.

The same 10-year moratorium will apply to new dredging, either within or "adjoining" the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, which will be banned for 10 years.

Any major port planning already on the table will be considered - including Dudgeon Point south of Mackay, the expansions at the ports of Gladstone, Wiggins Island and potentially Port Alma.

Mr Seeney said he would not "move the goalposts".

The Deputy Premier said the government was determined to protect the Great Barrier Reef, which he described as "unique and special".

"Our approach is consistent with the UNESCO World Heritage Committee's recommendations to restrict port development in sensitive reef areas to existing ports," he said.

Australian Marine Conservation Society Felicity Wishart said the new development zones included the Fitzroy Delta, "an undeveloped natural wonderland" that could now be the site of a new port.

Ms Wishart said the overarching strategy did too little to discourage future incidents involving ocean contamination from ports.

"There is nothing in this document that gives us any confidence it will prevent another environmental nightmare like the one that occurred in Gladstone, from occurring further up the coast," Ms Wishart said.

She said the government had "failed the test" set by UNESCO to ensure the reef was protected.

Mr Seeney said environmental groups were only interested in shutting down the Queensland coal industry.

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