QRC launches reef campaign to counter green 'hysterics'
THE Queensland Resources Council has launched a public awareness campaign to "set the record straight" on the future of the Great Barrier Reef and the continuing prosperity of more than one million Queenslanders who live and work adjacent to it.
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said it was time that "increasingly hysterical claims by environmental activists were called to account".
"We have two debates running over the future health of the Great Barrier Reef," Mr Roche said in Mackay on Thursday.
"One reflects the genuine concerns of all Australians to ensure the values of an iconic World Heritage Area are protected.
"The other is an opportunistic attempt by extremely well-funded international activists to deflect attention from the real threats to the reef's health by demonising Queensland's major export industries."
Mr Roche said anyone with a passing interest in the reef and its recent history knew from documented scientific evidence that ports and shipping through the reef did not represent major threats to its ecological integrity.
"Every credible scientific report published on Great Barrier Reef health has named Crown of Thorns starfish outbreaks, water quality and extreme weather events as the real culprits," he said.
"Neither an increase in shipping traffic nor decades of port dredging has been scientifically recorded as contributing to coral cover loss or a historical decline in the environmental health of the reef."
Mr Roche said Australia led the world in shipping management, with recently boosted navigation services through automated position reporting, an automatic ship identification system and decision-support tools mandated for use along the length of the Great Barrier Reef.
He said the only people advocating the Great Barrier Reef be declared 'in danger' were environmental activists misrepresenting the impact of Queensland's leading export industries.
Mr Roche said that the activists' latest bogeyman was port dredging, because if they could halt dredging they could shut down export ports.
The focus of the QRC public awareness campaign is a large fold-out map of the Great Barrier Reef including major mainland ports and the constantly monitored channels through which shipping moves.
The reverse side features information about the reef, shipping safety measures, port dredging and major threats to reef health identified by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
The Greens passed a motion in the Senate last month calling for an end to dredge dumping in the Great Barrier Reef world heritage area.
Australian Marine Conservation Society Great Barrier Reef campaign director Felicity Wishart said dredging destroyed seagrass, and destroyed the feeding grounds of species such as turtles and dugongs.
Greens senator Larissa Waters said earlier this month the major threat to reef quality was dredging and the dumping of sediment.
"Labor has approved the dumping of 17.5 million cubic metres of sediment into the Great Barrier Reef - that's 193 times the amount of sediment the Reef Rescue program has prevented from running off into the reef," she said.
"The Reef Rescue program gains are a drop in the ocean when you look at the masses of sediment being dumped into the Great Barrier Reef for the big mining companies."
The health of the reef was earlier this month downgraded to "poor".