An aerial view of Abbot Point’s Terminal 1 with its coal stockpile. A second legal attempt to stop expansion of the port will be initiated in Queensland’s Federal Court.
An aerial view of Abbot Point’s Terminal 1 with its coal stockpile. A second legal attempt to stop expansion of the port will be initiated in Queensland’s Federal Court. Contributed

Court challenge aims to reverse Abbot Point dredge decision

FEDERAL Environment Minister Greg Hunt faces a new legal challenge to his approval of a dredging and dumping proposal at Abbot Point, with documents set to be lodged in Queensland's Federal Court today.

It will be the second legal attempt to stop the port expansion at Abbot Point near Bowen.

A previous court action was filed against the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's approval of the project.

Led by the Mackay Conservation Group, represented by the Environmental Defenders' Office Queensland, the challenge focuses on Mr Hunt's approval of the project last year.

While that approval was endorsed officially by the marine park authority, which also had to assess the project, internal documents released earlier this month revealed concerns were expressed within the marine park authority about the project's likely environmental impacts.

The case will argue that Minister Hunt had "failed in his obligation" to protect the reef's World Heritage Area in approving the dredging and dumping proposal.

Conservation group co-ordinator Ellen Roberts said the case could have legal implications for developments at State Government-owned ports along the Queensland coastline, and the key arguments had not been tested before in the court.

"The world will be watching this case," Ms Roberts said.

"The World Heritage Committee has expressed concern over the Australian and Queensland governments' efforts to protect the reef, particularly from mega-port development and the associated dredging and dumping.

"Australia's Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act states that the Australian Government must protect World Heritage properties," she said.

"A successful case could have implications for the protection of other Australian World Heritage sites."

The case was funded by some $150,000 public donations and backed by the online campaign group GetUp, which has also been part of a larger campaign called Save the Reef, aimed at stopping the export of coal through the reef.



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