IT'S set to be the most contentious local issue of the Federal Election campaign, but the health of our harbour has candidates for Flynn flummoxed.

They can't agree on what's damaging the Great Barrier Reef, let alone how to fix it.

Speaking at a GAPDL candidates lunch, sitting member LNP candidate Ken O'Dowd said it was the crown of thorns starfish that did "more damage than man does" to the reef.

Labor candidate Chris Trevor said action was needed.

"It's not the dredging, it's the ballast water that is being discharged by the major ships that are coming into our harbour (that worries me)," he said.

But both candidates agreed that the balance between industry and environment in Gladstone harbour was about right.

That's despite this week's call from the Federal Government-appointed independent review panel into the health of port of Gladstone, to improve management of environmental concerns.

"I'm very wary about independent reports but the reef is very dear to all of us and it must be protected," Mr O'Dowd said.

Thursday also saw environmental campaigners from Save the Reef walk into Gladstone, ending their 1200km trek from Cairns.

They were led by 72-year-old June Norman.

"We know the reef has many challenges, but those don't outweigh the huge damage that dredging will do."

"We've lost half the coral on the reef, more developments are too much, too quickly for a reef already under pressure."

She said dredging also has a very clear impact on promoting the spread of crown of thorns starfish.

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This poll ended on 06 January 2014.

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Candidates for Flynn

  • Ken O'Dowd, Liberal National Party
  • Chris Trevor, Australian Labor Party
  • Steve Ensby, Palmer United Party
  • Duncan Scott, Independent
  • Richard Love, Katter's Australian Party
  • Serena Thompson, Australian Greens
  • Renae Moldre, Family First Party