Reef boundary shift bid hits a snag

The Queensland government’s environment department says it is not interested in supporting a call to shift the boundary of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

The corporation responsible for dredging off Gladstone has written to state and federal MPs asking them to consider redrawing the world heritage boundary to exclude the harbour.

The Gladstone Ports Corporation says having a massive commercial port included in such an area is like having a conservation zone declared over Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall.

Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) Director-General Jim Reeves said the department was “not really interested” in advocating to change the boundary.

“The World Heritage boundaries have been set for a long time,” Mr Reeves told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday.

“The conditions that we’ve set on the Gladstone Port on their major dredging activities were done with those boundaries then.

“We want to make sure that nothing really damages the environment either locally, within that world heritage area, or anywhere else in Gladstone.

“For us its obviously a very important environment, its a world-significant environment adjacent to Gladstone, so we’re not really interested in advocating for shifting the boundaries.”

The call to have the boundaries redrawn comes ahead of a UN mission to look into whether Queensland gas projects are putting the Great Barrier Reef at risk.

The Gladstone Ports Corporation has approvals to dredge 46 million cubic metres from within the harbour to accommodate Queensland’s expanding coal seam gas industry.

Corporation chief executive Leo Zussino argues the Port of Gladstone is a massive commercial harbour, akin to Brisbane city’s hub.

When the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area was gazetted in 1981 the corporation was undertaking a 22 million cubic metre dredging program, he said.

“No-one seemed concerned then or since as the Corporation has continued significant port development in line with our 50-year strategic plan,” Mr Zussino said in a statement.

He said the port is one of the finest commercial harbours in Australia and underpins the economic development of central Queensland.

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