The sweeping Keppel Bay coastline, south of Keppel Sands.
The sweeping Keppel Bay coastline, south of Keppel Sands. File

WWF-Australia's calls for halt on reef port developments

DON'T build anymore ports as the existing infrastructure is being under-utilised, the WWF-Australia says.

WWF-Australia is today calling on the Queensland Government to cancel all new reef port development.

A Queensland Government report has found there is no need to build any more ports in the Fitzroy Delta, Keppel Bay or anywhere else in Queensland in the next decade because existing infrastructure is being under-utilised.

WWF-Australia spokesperson, Nick Heath, said the Great Barrier Reef Ports Strategy Economic Analysis shows Queensland's three major coal ports are only operating at 52% capacity.

"This is frank and fearless advice from the Government's own department," he said.

Just days after the report was released, the Government issued a press release calling for registrations of interest to expand Abbot Point.

"Making plans to expand Abbot Point when two thirds of the port is already sitting idle is ludicrous," Mr Heath said.

This comes after the UNESCO World Heritage Committee released its much-anticipated report  in June on industrial development in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

As expected, Gladstone Harbour featured heavily in the report card as a significant problem area.

The Bund Wall at Fishermans Landing. The Bund wall is being filled with dredge spoil and will become an area of reclaimed land.
The Bund Wall at Fishermans Landing. David Sparkes

One of the major recommendations of the report was that the state government must produce a full report on the state of the area by February 1 next year.

The State Government report, according to WWF-Australia, shows the total number of ships on the Great Barrier Reef is expected to increase by 3% per year, according to historical trends. Even if that doubles to 6%, the maximum number of ships will be 6100 by 2022.

However, the State Government website shows the report has not been finalised.

The State Government website states:

The Great Barrier Reef Ports Strategy presents the vision and principles guiding future port development and planning in the Great Barrier Reef coastal region to 2022.

The Queensland Government's aim is to ensure that port development in the region occurs in a balanced and incremental way to support economic development while maintaining the outstanding environmental value of the Great Barrier Reef.

The strategy includes the commitment to restrict any significant port development, within and adjoining the Great Barrier Reef  World Heritage Area, to within existing port limits for the next 10 years.

Public consultation took place from November 1, 2012 to December 14, 2012.

The results of consultation are currently being considered and will inform the Queensland Government's strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef Coastal Zone  and development of a  Queensland Ports Strategy.

Aerial of the Great Barrier Reef.
Aerial of the Great Barrier Reef. C Veron

Mr Heath says existing infrastructure needs to be used more efficiently to meet demand of a 3% per year rise in the number of ships on the reef.

"Existing infrastructure can meet this demand. We just need to use it more efficiently," Mr Heath said.

"In Central Queensland, Port Alma and Balaclava Island are earmarked for future development despite being in World Heritage Area.

"Why waste billions of dollars building new ports when we don't use the ones we have already?

"Why risk damaging an international icon like the Great Barrier Reef?

"Building unneccesary infrastructure on such sensitive coastline doesn't make any sense."

The report by the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning also states that "any supply constraints that inhibit optimum utilisation of the capacity of the ports could be addressed by regulatory measures."

"This raises questions about how existing infrastructure is being operated," Mr Heath said.

"Are private owners of the ports preventing access?

"Earlier this year, UNESCO delivered a 'show cause' notice to the Australian and Queensland Governments and requested that no new port development or associated infrastructure outside of the existing and long established major port areas be permitted.

"The world is watching us. I urge the Queensland Government to carefully look at this report and reconsider its options.

"The Great Barrier Reef needs our help. We need to preserve it for future generations."

Why waste billions of dollars building new ports when we don't use the ones we have already?