The Great Barrier Reef Report Card 2012 and 2013 – Reef Water Quality Protection Plan was released today. This report suggests that some progress is being made in improving quality of water reaching the reef from land*, but paints a picture of a reef in poor health in many areas.
However, the current dredging proposals (including Cairns Port) make a mockery of the efforts being made by the agricultural sector to reduce pollutants reaching our reef. For example, in the wet tropics region the report card indicates a 96,400 ton annual reduction in sediment runoff from the 2008-2009 baseline. This represents a 13% reduction toward the stated goal of a 20% reduction by 2020. In contrast, the Cairns Port proposal is for dredging of well over 5 million cubic meters of dredge spoil (approximately 8.5 million tons), with annual maintenance dredging to increase to 580,000 cubic meteres (approximately 98,600 tons).
CAFNEC Marine Programs Coordinator and marine biologist Josh Coates said:
“CAFNEC commends the efforts of farmers, graziers and other land managers on better management practice to improve reef water quality. Government funding supporting these improvements is of course important. However, investing taxpayers’ money to reduce land based pollution and then spending taxpayers’ money on dredging, with potentially much worse negative impacts, is counterproductive at best.”
“The dredging proposed for Cairns Port and other Queensland ports is a real slap in the face to farmers and other land managers. The feedback we are getting is that farmers are disgusted that they are being asked to change practices to save the reef, while at the same time the Government is putting the reef at risk with dredging proposals on an unprecedented scale.”
“The Cairns Port Shipping Development project is an unwise use of taxpayers’ money, putting our tourism and fishing industries at risk. There are better ways to support local business that don’t put the reef and inshore environment at risk. “
* CAFNEC notes that the methodology used to reach these conclusions is unattributed and unverifiable and as such estimates of the effectiveness of programs outlined in the report card have no published scientific verification.