Healthy Harbour report: Are we getting the whole story?
PROCESS engineer and environmentalist Jan Arens has slammed the recently released Gladstone Healthy Harbour Report card, claiming it is an attempt at "window dressing" and the results do not reflect reality.
The report card, based on data collected between July 2016 and June 2017, uses a system of grading A to E.
It awarded seagrass and coral habitats within the harbour an overall grade of D. Meanwhile, it gave water quality an overall A at 87 per cent and sediment quality a B.
Mr Arens said something didn't add up if water quality was considered excellent.
"If the corals, seagrass and mud-crabs are doing so poorly, we are not measuring the right things," he said.
"Coral in particular is doing so poorly, scoring just E's and D's by their own metrics, their assessment of water quality is A ratings, it just doesn't add up."
"Doesn't their own data suggest that the habitat is being hammered by something?"
GHHP chair Paul Birch said the 213-page technical report, which provided details of the testing and monitoring, was available for anyone to access at ghhp.org.au.
"Regarding any questions or concerns for further monitoring, (we are) always open to talk to community members", he said.
CQUniversity professor and head of the GHHP independent science panel John Rolfe explained during the launch of this year's report card last week that seagrass and corals were slow to recover from cyclone damage.
Prof Rolfe said dugongs feeding on seagrass also impacted its score.
He said micro-algae living on corals in the Gladstone Harbour had also slowed their recovery from cyclone damage.
Mr Arens said while most were being positive about the quality of water in the harbour, he struggled to understand the score of 87 per cent.
"During early discussions with Dr Ian Poiner, (then) chair of the GHHP Independent Science Panel, all data was going to be publicly available, but this is not the case," he said.
Mr Arens said millions of dollars of taxpayer money was spent each year on monitoring the harbour and producing the healthy harbour report card and technical report but the way the information was collected was not accessible to members of the public.
He has previously filed freedom of information requests in a bid to learn more about the results and data collection.
"I have no doubt everyone involved is trying to do the right thing," he said, adding he did not question the measurements recorded by scientists.
"It is a shame that the actual science is hidden from the public."
Mr Arens, a geologist and process engineer who has been studying water quality for the past 17 years, said the harbour needed evidence-based scientific assessment, not a "score".
"He said the idea of the Healthy Harbour Report card being pushed into schools as science "caused the hairs on the back of the neck to stand up".
"Our harbour's environment is not competing, it needs no score, it needs evidence-based scientific assessment, unambiguous and free for all to explore and understand," he said.