Issues Magazine

Boom Goes the Reef



Thursday March 1, 2012, Sydney:
New Greenpeace report exposes how Australia’s coal boom threatens the Great Barrier Reef.

• Six times more coal ships through the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

• Coal port capacity increased six-fold along the Great Barrier Reef coastline

• The world’s largest coal port proposed for Abbot Point

These are just three of the findings from a new Greenpeace report – “Boom Goes the Reef” – which exposes the extent to which the Great Barrier Reef risks being transformed from Australia’s most treasured natural icon to an industrial estate for coal exports over the next decade.

Timed to coincide with the 5 March arrival of UNESCO – the guardian of World Heritage Areas – the report lays out the dramatic scale of proposed mining infrastructure and its impacts on the Great Barrier Reef.

“The Great Barrier Reef is a unique and precious environment that brings over $5 billion a year into Queensland and employs more than 60,000 people. But instead of protecting it for future generations, Australian politicians are allowing it to be turned into a conveyor belt for coal,” said Greenpeace Campaigner John Hepburn.

Under pressure from UNESCO, the government recently announced an 18-month “strategic assessment” of the reef – claiming it will be the most comprehensive ever carried out in Australia.

However, State and Federal Governments are likely to greenlight a series of massive infrastructure projects before the assessment is even finished.

“The strategic assessment is the first opportunity to take an overall look at the impact of mining on the Great Barrier Reef,” said Hepburn. “But as it stands, the government is set to approve the world’s largest coal port at Abbot Point before the assessment has delivered its conclusions.

“Greenpeace is calling on the Federal and State authorities to suspend approvals for major new infrastructure during the assessment period,” said Hepburn. “If approvals continue, there is a very real chance that by the time the real risks are understood irreversible damage will have already been done to this fragile eco-system.