Environment Minister Greg Hunt yesterday announced the inquiry into dredging and disposal issues in the harbour.
The expansion and dredging was done to accommodate liquefied natural gas exports.
Mr Hunt said he had sought a review of the previous governments’ decisions and could not be more committed to examining whether all steps were properly followed. It is not known if Mr Hunt’s review will include a decision of the current State Government in May 2012 to ease rules to allow dredging to continue during periods of higher turbidity.
The inquiry has sparked calls to abandon dredge spoil dumping at Abbot Point, near Bowen.
The Greens Environment spokeswoman, Larissa Waters, said it made no sense for Abbot Point dredge spoil dumping to proceed while Mr Hunt was conducting an inquiry into issues at Gladstone.
Other industry associations have also called on Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority not to allow dredge spoil dumping from Abbot Point.
The Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators said GBRMPA’s own report on the Reef said its health was declining and, without intervention, was likely to continue to deteriorate.
The Queensland Tourism Industry Council said the interests of all coastal industries – including tourism – must remain alongside other government interests.
“The Reef alone produces an Australia-wide value-added economic contribution of $5.7 billion . . . with employment of almost 70,000 people,” QTIC chief executive Daniel Gschwindsaid.
“It is essential that the correct balance is achieved in regards to port development and environmental protection . . .”
And the Australian Marine Conservation Society said Mr Hunt’s approval of dredge spoil dumping flew in the face of the Coalition’s election claims that it had the Reef’s best interests at heart. “This opens the way for Abbot Point to become the world’s biggest coal port just 50km from the tourist magnet of the Whitsunday Islands,” spokeswoman Felicity Wishart said.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is examining an application from North Queensland Bulk Ports to dispose of dredge material.
Senator Waters said the inquiry into processes at Gladstone would be no more than a Band-Aid if it were not free from political and industry influence.
GBRMPA’s decision is due to be delivered on January 31.