Govt confident about reef but locals are sceptical

THE Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance has welcomed the World Heritage Committee decision to protect local areas including the northern end of Curtis Island and the Fitzroy Delta from industrialisation in the future.

The Queensland Government pledged to ensure north Curtis Island would be protected from future port developments but one Gladstone resident said weak terminology was a concern.

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Delegates from around the world, including Queensland Environment Minister Andrew Powell, convened in Doha, Qatar on Wednesday to analyse the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

Concerns regarding one of the world's best natural assets were centred around the development of ports and liquefied natural gas facilities.

The existing developments on Curtis Island have spurred international concern for similar dredging and expansion proposals at Abbot Point.

It has asked Australia to submit an updated report on the state of conservation of the site by February 1, 2015.

World Heritage Centre Director Kishore Rao said the decision adopted by the committee welcomed the progress made by Australia in managing the reef.

"UNESCO is confident the overall direction towards next year's decision is a positive one," he said.

Environmentalists across the country are divided over whether the announcement to defer a 'danger' listing will effect positive or negative change.

Fitzroy Delta Alliance spokesperson Ginny Gerlach said the World Heritage Committee had put Australia firmly on notice to take stronger action to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

"The full protection for the Fitzroy Delta would be a win for the health of the Reef and the rare snub fin dolphin," she said.

"There is no reason why the Federal and Queensland governments can't uphold their promises to the World Heritage committee."

Ms Gerlach was wary of the faults in terminology.

"The vague terminology of this Queensland Port Strategy does not rule out environmental damage associated with activities such as transhipping or other port development and expansion in the Fitzroy Delta," she said.

"The Australian Government risk breaching the UNESCO recommendations."

Local resident Carol Stepham said weak terminology was a concern.

"It is very specific when it states north Curtis Island," she pondered.

"I wonder how the government can justify saying industrialise this end of the island but not the other, like it will make a scrap of difference. The government doesn't care about the environment."