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Environmentalist calls for inquiry into Gladstone Harbour

A ROYAL Commission is needed to investigate the environmental management of Gladstone Harbour, an environmentalist said on Wednesday.

Australians for Animals' Sue Arnold, who examined a review of the harbour management ordered by UNESCO, has claimed serious flaws in the independent review.

It was established after the World Heritage Committee voiced serious concerns about the Labor Government's approval of LNG developments in the World Heritage area.

In its July report, the panel found the Western Basin dredging project was not the sole cause behind a 2011 fish disease outbreak, citing extreme weather events as playing a key role.

But Ms Arnold said the review was beset by a raft of problems, including secrecy surrounding environmental information, claiming it had not addressed the WHC's concerns about the local environment.

She said the "objectivity and hard, cold analysis" of a Royal Commission was the only way the public would learn "the full facts" about developments in the harbour.

Ms Arnold on Wednesday called on Environment Minister Greg Hunt, as the minister responsible for the review, to initiate a Royal Commission.

Such an extensive investigation would likely need the approval of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and include wider consideration in Canberra.

The call for a Royal Commission follows a series of revelations of omissions of information and problems surrounding the approval and monitoring of the dredging project and the fish disease outbreak.

Ms Arnold said she was also concerned the Federal Government had not ordered an independent audit of dredging operations in the harbour.

"There is an urgent need for an in-depth independent review by international scientists with expertise," she said.

"The outstanding universal values of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area deserve 'best practice', which is not evident in the panel report.

Ms Arnold said the review had "failed to address major issues" which could affect the harbour environment and the World Heritage area.

Mr Hunt's office did not respond to questions on Wednesday.

Topics:  gladstone harbour, royal commission, world heritage area




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