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Fishermen claim dredging impact covered up by GPC

The Rotterdam cutter suction dredge on Gladstone Harbour.
The Rotterdam cutter suction dredge on Gladstone Harbour. David Sparkes

CLAIMS of a cover-up over Gladstone's massive dredging project could be key to a fishing industry class action against Gladstone Ports Corporation.

Fisherman Trevor Falzon is leading the class action, which includes more than 20 fishermen, crabbers and trawlers who want more compensation for alleged lost fishing grounds.

It's the second case fishers have brought against the port, claiming they weren't adequately compensated for the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project.

Mr Falzon said the latest case could include revelations of what he called a "cover-up".

He claimed information about the environmental effects of the project had been hidden from regulators.

But a port corporation spokeswoman maintained no environmental information had been withheld from state or federal authorities.

Mr Falzon alleged a report about a leaking bund wall was kept under wraps for more than a year, before being released two weeks ago.

"There's hundreds more things that have happened that they haven't told us about," he said.

"In getting this case together, we've learnt they're not forthcoming giving up the documentation, and even when we've been to the authorities, it all fell on deaf ears."

That report found the bund wall, part of the Western Basin dredging project, was leaking and causing turbidity problems in the harbour.

In getting this case together, we've learnt they're not forthcoming giving up the documentation, and even when we've been to the authorities, it all fell on deaf ears

While the port acknowledged dredging operations had contributed to some increased turbidity, it has maintained the project did not contribute to fish disease problems in the harbour dating to 2011.

Mr Falzon said while the case was mainly about compensation for fishermen, he believed the port had a responsibility to release information to regulators and the public.

"How can they do this when they had clear directions to release information?" he said. "The whole harbour development should be stopped until it's sorted out."

The port spokeswoman said all reports related to the project were "made available to all government departments and relevant authorities".

But questions about the release of reports regarding the overall environmental condition of the harbour unrelated to the dredging project went unanswered on Thursday.

The spokeswoman said the port had released "hundreds of reports on its website as required by licence conditions", and GPC had met all its obligations for reporting environmental incidents.

She said GPC also provided "a full list of reports" undertaken for the dredging project to the Federal Government's independent inquiry into the harbour management.

She added "additional reports were published when requested - as stipulated by the project's conditions".

Topics:  dredging, environment, gladstone harbour, gladstone ports corporation



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