Minister confident in Healthy Harbour program

THE state's environmental decision maker is confident a recently announced Healthy Harbour program will sufficiently monitor water quality issues that could arise from a second shipping channel.

The confidence comes as a proposal to duplicate the Gladstone shipping channel progresses through the state assessment process.

The State Government has finalised its terms of reference for the Gladstone Ports Corporation to follow when it compiles an environmental impact statement for its proposed channel duplication.

Nineteen submissions were received to draft the terms of reference.

Construction of the $400 million shipping channel, which would run alongside the existing Gatcombe and Golding Cutting channels, would create 100 jobs from 2014-2015.

But it will also involve wide-scale dredging, an activity that has attracted strong criticism in the development-heavy harbour.

Local fishermen have blamed dredging projects for poor water quality, large fish kills and marine disease.

Asked what he could do to calm fears about the project's dredging and the impact on water quality, Environment Minister Andrew Powell referred to the Healthy Harbour partnership.

"One of the most important parts of that partnership is to set up an independent scientific panel," he said.

"It will be responsible for bringing together all of the environmental monitoring that is occurring in that harbour to convey it to the community in a way the community can understand and gain reassurance from."

The Healthy Harbour program, similar to a program carried out in Moreton Bay, will result in an annual report card.

Mr Powell said he would rather a "continued, appropriate, high environmental-standard development occur in Gladstone" than further ports opened up along the Queensland coast.

Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said the GPC had identified the channel in a 50-year strategic plan to accommodate future shipping requirements.

"This is Queensland's largest multi-commodity port and one of the busiest in the country," he said.

"Increasing its capacity will place us in a position to take advantage of an immeasurable number of opportunities in coming years."

The Ports Corporation are due to produce their EIS by mid-next year.