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UNESCO report critical of projects

GREENS Senator Larissa Waters said the report card was a "slap in the face for the federal and Queensland governments".
GREENS Senator Larissa Waters said the report card was a "slap in the face for the federal and Queensland governments". Nat Bromhead

THE UNESCO World Heritage Committee has released its much-anticipated report on industrial development in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

As expected, Gladstone Harbour featured heavily in the report card as a significant problem area.

One of the major recommendations of the report was that the state government must produce a full report on the state of the area by February 1 next year.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters said the report card was a "slap in the face for the federal and Queensland governments".

"The Premier must abandon his view that World Heritage is a "problem" for Queensland and see it as the environmental and sustainable economic boon it is, employing 54,000 people and generating $5.1b per year in tourism dollars," Sen Waters said.

"A World Heritage in Danger listing would threaten that revenue and show what environmental peril the Reef is in.

"The Queensland and Australian Governments should use this last opportunity to ditch their 'coal at all costs' strategy to sacrifice the Reef, and stop the mass dredging and off-shore dumping of millions of cubic metres in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area."

A UNESCO mission to Queensland in March visited Gladstone and spoke to stakeholders.

While the report did say that overall managements standards were of a high standard, a few key statements about Gladstone Harbour did stand out;

  • "The mission further noted that, whilst many aspects of the management of the property set standards, there is a range of unaddressed concerns regarding the protection and management of the port and LNG facilities in Gladstone Harbour and on Curtis Island and the protection of its surrounding environment."

The mission was not satisfied by offset measures in place for the LNG developments on Curtis Island;

  • "It does not appear that offsets that were part of the conditions for consenting developments in Gladstone Harbour and on Curtis Island are appropriate and sufficient mitigation of the impact the facilities have on the property."

It also called for an independent review of environmental management of the Curtis Island projects;

  • "The mission further concludes that the concerns over the management arrangements for the facilities in Gladstone Harbour and on Curtis Island should be addressed through an independent review and result in the optimization of their operation, consistent with the highest internationally recognized standards of best practice. Such review should take place prior to the consent of new major port operations."

The mission found the Great Barrier Reef was not "in danger", but it did raise the possibility of such a status being applied in the future;

  • "The property does not currently meet the requirements for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger. However should some of the most threatening developments proceed further towards consent, it is recommended that the World Heritage Committee considers the possibility of listing the property as being in danger. The consent of such developments would directly risk irreversible impacts on the OUV of the property, and pre-empt an effective outcome of the Strategic Assessment and its envisioned plan for the long-term sustainable development of the reef."

Some other significant comments from the report include;

  • "(The committee) notes with great concern the potentially significant impact on the property's Outstanding Universal Value resulting from the unprecedented scale of coastal development currently being proposed within and affecting the property, and further requests the State Party to not permit any new port development or associated infrastructure outside of the existing and long-established major port areas within or adjoining the property, and to ensure that development is not permitted if it would impact individually or cumulatively on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property."
  • "(The committee) requests moreover the State(Government) to undertake an independent review of the management arrangements for Gladstone Harbour, that will result in the optimization of port development and operation in Gladstone Harbour and on Curtis Island, consistent with the highest internationally recognized standards for best practice commensurate with iconic World Heritage status."

Read the full UNESCO report here.

Topics:  great barrier reef unesco unesco report



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