Govt bans dumping of harbour dredge spoil in reef park

THE Federal Government has banned the dumping of about 12 million cubic metres of dredge spoil into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The move, giving priority to land reclamation and onshore recovery of spoil, was made following consultation with the Gladstone Ports Corporation and the State Government.

But environmental groups are urging the minister to expand the ban across the entire World Heritage area with the looming decision on the Abbot Point development.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the GPC hadn't made a final decision on whether to duplicate the major shipping channel in Gladstone Harbour.

However, he has made the decision based on information from the findings of the Great Barrier Reef Strategic Assessment, to instruct the GPC "not to consider dumping any material from the capital dredging project in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park".

"In particular, in conjunction with the Queensland government, I have requested that the ports corporation give priority to examining land reclamation and onshore recovery of any spoil," Mr Hunt said.

"This is an important long-term step to reducing the cumulative impact on the marine park."

Environmental groups including the World Wildlife Fund (Australia) and the Australian Marine Conservation Society have backed the ban, but urged the minister to apply the precedent to all developments in the future, including the decision on Abbot Point.

While Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd welcomed the decision, he said "utilising the Port of Gladstone to its fullest potential and protecting our valuable environmental assets should not be mutually exclusive goals".

The GPC could not be reached for comment.