Gladstone Harbour.
Gladstone Harbour. David Sparkes

UNESCO report flags Gladstone Ports Corporation expansion

A NEW report from the United Nations' environmental arm has raised concerns about development plans by Gladstone Ports Corporation.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation named the ports corporation in the draft report, saying the Australian Government must take action to stop existing ports expanding outside existing port areas.

UNESCO's long-awaited report threatened to list the Great Barrier Reef as "in danger" if both Queensland and Federal governments fail to act by February 1 next year.

The report highlights planned GPC development at Balaclava Island and Port Alma, pointing out "both these locations are outside existing major port areas (40-50km away from the Port of Gladstone), in the relatively undeveloped Fitzroy River delta".

The projects' combined value is $2.2billion.

Last week Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said he would not rule out approving the Fitzroy Terminal Project at Port Alma despite revelations of high to extreme environmental impacts.

That project sits within the bounds of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and marine park, and includes a coal export terminal and associated infrastructure across Port Alma and the Fitzroy Delta.

UNESCO flagged it had received reports that these developments "extended significantly to include areas of significant habitat that contribute to Outstanding Universal Value (of the Great Barrier Reef)."

The report also welcomed progress by the Federal Government in commissioning the Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone, in February this year.

The panel is currently reviewing all previous findings and information used as a basis for the current approvals for development at the Port of Gladstone.

Last month members of the panel interviewed community, environmental and industry groups about development in the harbour.

The UNESCO report requested "that these efforts result in the optimisation of port development and operation in Gladstone Harbour and on Curtis Island, as well as other existing port developments, consistent with the highest internationally recognised standards for best practice commensurate with iconic World Heritage status".