It was an eventful week and weekend with President Obama calling for reef protection and action on climate change, a misleading or at least confusing announcement from Greg Hunt regarding dredge spoil dumping and a clearer policy announcement on dredge spoil dumping from the Opposition.


obama abbotCAFNEC applauds the pointed comments made by President Obama regarding climate change and the future of the Great Barrier Reef. The President is right in warning that “The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened,”

In these comments, which are squarely aimed at the Australian Government, the US President is clearly calling for Australia to lift its game in terms of dealing with climate change.

The draft Reef 2050 plan, has the goal of outlining a sustainability plan for the GBR. In its current form the plan fails to address the issue of climate change. The science community, environmental groups and the Australian and international community are calling on the Government to address this, prior to the release of a final version of the plan.

Our reef is great and it is our national and international responsibility to look after it. The Reef 2050 plan in its current form represents a massive opportunity lost. It is a ‘business as usual’ approach that fails to link desired outcomes to real legislative and planning policy changes or adequate resourcing for action.

CAFNEC is asking all concerned people to get in touch with their local members of parliament to discuss the draft 2050 plan that is currently being considered by Government. Read more about the issues that require discussion here.

Greg Hunt

Meanwhile at the World Parks conference environment Minister Greg Hunt made an announcement that the Government would legislate to ban the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. On the surface this sounds like a good policy, but look a bit deeper and this announcement stinks of a smokescreen for inaction.

Mr Hunt’s office was unable to provide any clarity on what the announcement means for the proposed Cairns Port expansion project, which has dumping of 4.4 million cubic meters of dredge spoil in the marine park as one option.

Annual maintenance dredge spoil from the Cairns port is currently dumped in the marine park, but the announced ban only applies to new capital dredging and, it seems, may exempt the Cairns proposal.  Also, given that 80% of current and proposed dredge dumping is for outside the marine park (but within the World Heritage Area and impacting on the reef/marine park) is this announcement actually totally meaningless? Will it actually stop a single sludgy bucketload of dredge spoil being dumped on our reef?

CAFNEC speaks to TV media after the ALP opposition no dumping in the WHA policy. announcement.

CAFNEC speaks to TV media after the ALP opposition no dumping in the WHA policy. announcement.

Opposition announces dredge spoil dump policy

In contrast to the Federal Liberal party announcement the State and Federal Labour Environment Ministers last week chose Cairns as the location to announce a ‘no capital dredge spoil dumping in the World Heritage Area’ policy.

CAFNEC has made comment on this announcement – read more here.

More action and less spin needed

The Oppositions’ position makes the Liberal / National announcement look like more ‘business as usual’ spin to pretend they are doing something when in reality the main thing that is going on is next to nothing.  Instead we see a Reef 2050 plan with no teeth and a million dollar advertising budget to tell folks everything is OK. The science is clear – things are not OK and without much more action than we are seeing, they will get worse.

We need to be addressing climate change and reducing pressures on the reef to increase water quality and reef resilience. This includes committing to reducing agricultural runoff and getting risd of the outdated practice of dumping huge amounts of dredge spoil.

State and Federal Governments need to listen to the science community, the international community and their own constituents. It is time to take real action to address climate change and reef health via the reef 2050 plan and avoid the listing of our reef as ‘World Heritage in Danger’.