Questions raised over penalties for damaging the reef

WHAT'S our reef worth?

Two separate dumping incidents, and the fines imposed, have brought this into question for many Gladstone region residents.

Questions have been raised about Federal Government penalties and their effectiveness as a deterrent.

This week, the Gladstone Ports Corporation was fined $6600 for the dumping of 730 cubic metres of dredge spoil within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Last month, The Hope Star Shipping Company was ordered to pay $5000 and its Chinese master to pay $300 after it dumped garbage about 210km north-east of Gladstone earlier this year.

Gladstone Councillor Col Chapman described the recent fines as token gestures.

"I don't believe that these penalties are enough to deter dumping by companies," Cr Chapman said.

"Orica was fined considerably more for breaching its conditions and ordered to make alterations to their management systems and structures to comply."

Mr Chapman said extreme care should be taken to ensure the long term health of the reef.

"In Queensland, a person or company can be fined up to $33,000 for dumping illegal waste on land, so why not a similar amount for dumping at sea," Cr Chapman said.

"To me, it shows that we do not value the reef highly enough."

A spokesperson for the Federal Environment department said penalties of up to $1.1 million could be imposed for serious contraventions of project conditions under national environment law.

"The department can choose to use the strict liability provisions of the Act in response to minor offences that have not significantly impacted matters of national environmental significance."

Big bucks hold sway for environmental vandals

PRESIDENT of the Gladstone Conservation Council Jan Arens has slammed the recent penalties imposed for two cases of breaching environmental approval conditions.

Mr Arens said the fines will not act as a deterrent and described the dumping of dredge spoil as atrocious.

"The dumping of 730 cubic meters of dredge spoil because the captain lost control of the situation is atrocious but no surprise," he said.

"The authorities suggesting this will not damage the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage are as culpable."

Mr Arens said the fines represents pocket change compared to the millions worth of contracts and will have no behaviour change impact.

He is calling for tougher penalties and a willingness of the authorities to actually implement the conditions required by the environmental authority.

Mr Arens said while not to be encouraged, the Hope Star incident pales into insignificance compared to 730 cubic meters of dredge spoil dumped by the Gladstone Ports Corporation in January this year.

"The dredge spoil dumping needs to be kept in context with the tens of millions of cubic meters associated with the overall dredging program and the highly irresponsible plans to dredge a second channel," Mr Arens said.

"Dredging will be required for Queensland's ambition to double coal exports, all through the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area"

"The foundations have already been laid to dump dredge spoil not just in the world heritage area but also within the Marine Park."

Recent Penalties

  • Gladstone Ports Corporation was fined $66,000 after a barge working on the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal project dumped dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, breaching Commonwealth environmental approval conditions.
  • The Hope Star Shipping Company was told to pay $5000 and its Chinese master to pay $300 after it dumped garbage about 210km north-east of Gladstone on June 29.

Topics:  gladstone ports corporation great barrier reef

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