With due respect to Noël Bowley, I wish to reply to his letter to the Editor on Monday 25th August.
Noel I think the important part of your letter inferred that you had worked for the Ports Corporation for 37 years and retired a decade ago. Unfortunately the Company you worked for and the one that existed during this fiasco are entirely different and while dredging has been carried out in Gladstone Harbour numerous times the difference this time is twofold, 1. The amount of dredge spoil and 2. The fact that this time they backhoe dredged mud which contained high levels of acid sulphate material.
The GBRMPAs own studies have recently discovered that the dredge spoil can actually travel up to 80 kilometres. One thing Ebony did not point out is that 2 members of the GBRMPA Board have financial interests in the Resources Industry. I find it very hard to believe they were not unduly influenced. In your position at the Gladstone Ports you had the relevant qualifications, don't you think that anyone sitting on the GBRMPA Board should have the correct qualifications?
Do you believe that all the people who spoke about the problems are all lying? Did the whistleblower of the problems with the bund wall lie and was his photographic evidence false?
I for one congratulation Ebony for having the courage to voice her opinion in our local paper. I know how difficult that can be.
I love Gladstone and Gladstone Harbour as much as you and unfortunately I believe you do not hide from the truth, no matter how difficult because if we do not acknowledge the past mistakes we will continue to make them. Yes we are an industrial city but wouldn't it have been nice if this latest rush had been done with the environment being the number one consideration. We could have been proudly showing off a model for what to do, not what not to do.
ENVIRONMENT Minister Greg Hunt told the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to approve a controversial dredge spoil dumping proposal at Abbot Point just days before a permit was granted.
Documents released in answers to a Senate Estimates Question on Notice reveal Mr Hunt personally wrote to the authority just seven days before the authority approved the sea dumping permit.
Both Mr Hunt's previous approval and the authority's approval are already subject to court action, and both parties were remaining tight-lipped about the letter on Friday.
The North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation project would involve dredging three million cubic metres of sediment to expand the coal port, with the spoil created to be dumped in an existing dumping area in the marine park.
Earlier draft permit assessments have previously shown the authority was concerned about potentially wide-ranging impacts from the dumping proposal, including on coral near Holbourne Island and Nares Rock and the heritage-listed WWII Catalina wreck.
But the authority's final approval documents have revealed publicly for the first time that Mr Hunt's letter was one of only two key "grounds" relied on for approving the sea dumping permit.
While the letter itself was not released to the Senate, the documents show Mr Hunt wrote to the authority on January 23 this year, days before the permit was approved on January 31.
"I wish to advise you under section 163(1)(a) of the EPBC Act, that (the port) has addressed all of the requirements for the loading and disposal of sediments at sea and therefore recommend that a permit should be granted under section 19 of the Sea Dumping Act," the document reads.
It is unclear why the letter was sent, as the documents show authority staff were already aware of the looming deadline for a decision, reporting "considerable time constraints have been experience in providing a comprehensive sea dumping assessment".
The documents show the only other grounds to approve the permit were that alternatives, such as a different dump site or land reclamation, "could be seen to be disproportionate in costs".
It also reveals many and varied grounds on which the permit could be refused, but wasn't, including a "lack of adequate information to determine the likely effects of the proposed disposal option".
Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters, who asked the Question on Notice, said the documents showed that "that science was dictating a refusal, but it was approved after the Minister wrote the letter".
"My interpretation is that the Minister wrote what was an otherwise unnecessary letter - clearly this was a signal that the government expected the authority to approve it," she said.
"With the budget at that point in time hanging over everybody's head, and the Minster writing the letter, it is clear what the subtext was if it was not approved."
An authority spokeswoman said GBRMPA was unable to comment, due to existing court actions over the approval.
A port spokeswoman said it was "important to understand that dredging has not yet occurred" and there were a number of conditions to be met to "ensure that impacts are avoided and mitigated".
"Further, while modelling can provide guidance, it does not replace the knowledge and expertise of undertaking actual dredging campaigns," she said.
Questions put to Mr Hunt's office regarding the matter were unanswered at deadline on Friday.
Authors: F. Joseph Pollock, Joleah B. Lamb, Stuart N. Field, Scott F. Heron, Britta Schaffelke, George Shedrawi, David G. Bourne, Bette L. Willis
Published: July 16, 2014
In recent decades, coral reef ecosystems have declined to the extent that reefs are now threatened globally. While many water quality parameters have been proposed to contribute to reef declines, little evidence exists conclusively linking specific water quality parameters with increased disease prevalence in situ. Here we report evidence from in situ coral health surveys confirming that chronic exposure to dredging-associated sediment plumes significantly increase the prevalence of white syndromes, a devastating group of globally important coral diseases. Coral health surveys were conducted along a dredging-associated sediment plume gradient to assess the relationship between sedimentation, turbidity and coral health. Reefs exposed to the highest number of days under the sediment plume (296 to 347 days) had two-fold higher levels of disease, largely driven by a 2.5-fold increase in white syndromes, and a six-fold increase in other signs of compromised coral health relative to reefs with little or no plume exposure (0 to 9 days). Multivariate modeling and ordination incorporating sediment exposure level, coral community composition and cover, predation and multiple thermal stress indices provided further confirmation that sediment plume exposure level was the main driver of elevated disease and other compromised coral health indicators. This study provides the first evidence linking dredging-associated sedimentation and turbidity with elevated coral disease prevalence in situ. Our results may help to explain observed increases in global coral disease prevalence in recent decades and suggest that minimizing sedimentation and turbidity associated with coastal development will provide an important management tool for controlling coral disease epizootics.
The following is a submission I made regarding the further expansion of the State Development Area in Gladstone in 2014.
You may feel that since not many people turned up to the information sessions about the State Development Area changes, that no-one cares what you do.
This is not true. Many people have objected strenuously to this process over the years, and it has done them not one bit of good. Is it any wonder that most people have simply opted out of the process?
I am one of them, but I’ve decided to voice my thoughts on the whole process in a way which I hope you can understand. I’m going to put it very plainly. And when I say ‘You’ I am conflating government and fossil fuel corporations because I believe they are so intertwined that they cannot be separated.
You are lying, thieving bastards. You are greedy. You think that you can simply excise part of Australia and exempt it from due process, which is exactly what a State Development Area is. You think you can ride roughshod over a community, ruin an environment with impunity and take the money and run.
I am here to tell you that while the people of Central Queensland are slow to anger, when they are roused, they are a force to be reckoned with. Oh, we won’t be marching in the streets, have no fear of that, but you will find that your social licence has expired.
People, good people, have been leaving the area in droves. You will struggle to find the people you need, you will have to pay them double to stay there, and those people who will go anywhere for money are exactly the people who will leave at the drop of a hat.
And the good people who have left, who were forced to leave, are quietly agitating behind the scenes. You will find your finance is harder to get, your approvals much, much slower, and every act of environmental vandalism will be photographed and flashed around the world.
So go ahead, draw more lines on a map. Give with one hand as you take away with the other.
You will find that it will and has already backfired on you.
This information is for all those people concerned and affected by certain decisions made by the Australian Minister for the Environment or his Department.
The design of the EPBC Act is to provide an environmental impact assessment process which allows for public consultation which is transparent to all stakeholders and interested persons. This means that at certain steps of the process where a decision has been made, persons can... request information from the Department of the Environment regarding that particular decision. This information is obtained by formally requesting a Statement of Reasons under Section 13 of the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 from the following e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any request should include a statement as to why the person is aggrieved in accordance with Section 487 of the EPBC Act. The EPBC Act has a broad definition of aggrieved persons and as such pretty much any person would be able to request a decision under the Act. Once the Department has received this request within 28 days of a decision, a Statement of Reasons is required to be prepared and given to the person within 28 days. The Department has produced a Policy Statement which outlines the decisions where a Statement of Reasons can be requested from the Department/Minister. This Policy Statement is at: http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/98c097c0-0325-4e3e-b203-685b84142ec2/files/epbc-act-policy-statements-reasons.docx or click here
Requesting Statements of Reasons is a simple process that is rarely used but would be an important mechanism for obtaining information by the general public or conservation groups. I would encourage all those that are concerned by any decision made by the current Minister and the Department to request formal statements outlining the reasons for particular decisions under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act.
CASTING aside the agendas of politicians and activists, the true, long term implications of dredging spoil material along the Queensland coast are difficult to calculate.
Industry has breathed life into the once-quiet town of Gladstone in the form of booming economic activity, employment and high-visibility wear.
When Gladstone Harbour was subject to dredging in 2011, leakage at the Fisherman's Landing bund wall cast a shadow over the entire project.
Gladstone Harbour was recently used as a case study presented by senior engineers Bill Service and Warren Hornsey to Griffith University students, as to what can go wrong in dredging operations.
Fish health and water quality were compromised during 2011, and although a direct link between sediment leakage, heavy metals and aquatic health is yet to be confirmed, it is a substantial factor in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's decision on whether or not to allow dredging in other parts of the coast.
Calls for an independent federal inquiry into the inadequacy of containing toxic substances within the bund wall are being echoed throughout the country.
The amount dredged during 2011 was enormous, as Dr Jim Stoddart, marine biologist working with various LNG projects around Australia, admits.
A total of 25 million cubic metres was removed from the waterways of our harbour.
By comparison, the Abbot Point expansion proposal, approved by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, is seeking to dredge 3 million cubic metres, under strict regulations - about an eighth of what was carried out in Gladstone.
Dr Stoddart agreed that when undertaking dredging, environmental damage to some degree was inevitable.
"Dredging is a high-impact activity that cannot be carried out without some sort of footprint," he said.
"There will be some broken eggs, as seen in Gladstone."
Referring to the leakage of heavy metal sediment from Fisherman's Landing as a "broken egg" infuriated environmentalists.
"It's devastating news to millions of people around the world, when the Minister for the Environment, responsible for its stewardship, approves these projects," said Felicity Wishart, Great Barrier Reef campaign director.
"We've seen in Gladstone one of the worst examples of environmental management in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
"It was so poorly managed that local fishers are still seeking compensation from the damage caused to their industry.
Dredging is a high-impact activity that cannot be carried out without some sort of footprint. There will be some broken eggs
"And if recent revelations about the substandard work on the bund wall are true, it makes a mockery of environmental standards."
On the other side of the spectrum are mining advocates such as Viv Forbes, an applied science geologist and Fellow of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, who says the robustness of corals is largely underestimated.
In a post on Gina Rinehart's Facebook page on December 18, Dr Forbes was named a "heroic Australian" for his article Corals - The Great Survivors.
The post, which has since been removed, refers to the article as a purveyor of "simple science", nullifying environmental damage imposed by dredging, mining and the resource industry.
The article states:
"Corals are among the greatest survivors on Earth and have been here for about 500 million years.
"No matter what the future holds, corals are more likely than humans to survive the next major extinction."
Ms Wishart responded to the article by saying it was written by a geologist, not a coral reef scientist.
"It is deeply troubling that people may consider its findings anything more than convenient to serve their short-term interests," she said.
"It ignores the already-massive threats to the reef from poor water quality and the imminent threat faced by plans for further industrial developments along the reef."
But in his article, Mr Forbes countered by labelling opponents "green extremists".
"(They) would like to sacrifice all of Queensland's coastal industry on the coral altar - exploration, mining, farming, land development, tourism, forestry, fishing and shipping," he wrote.
"They need reminding, it is only rich societies who can afford to care for their environment."
But what makes us rich, says Dean Fillgram, a marine biologist specialising in coral reef biodiversity, is having one of the largest and most diverse marine ecosystems in the world.
"One instance of dredging gone wrong in Gladstone may not be pivotal in the future of the Great Barrier Reef," he said.
"Unfortunately, it is opening the floodgates for a future where the government and the Australian people have no value for World Heritage protected sites - a world where we reflect upon vibrant corals and unique marine wildlife as something of an urban legend."
The dramatic turn of political parties, from a Labor government that imposed a tax on carbon emissions to a conservative Coalition government vehemently opposed to a price on carbon, has left Australians confused about the environmental priorities of our country.
Furthermore, with mining magnates now holding seats in parliament, the proposed expulsion of the price on carbon will be an interesting indication as to where our government stands on profitability versus sustainability.
"No-one visits Australia to see the massive amounts of industry and huge holes in the ground," Mr Fillgram said.
"We need to remember, as humans, we are part of an ecosystem that will only sustain so much."
Whatever my thoughts on the necessity for the dredge program, nevertheless it was governmentally approved and therefore legal. Except...
We knew it wasn't right. We knew they were lying to us. All the evidence showed that there was something wrong with the way that dredging program operated. After all, in spite of the scale, dredging is nothing new in Gladstone Harbour and the risks of dealing with acid sulfate soils are well known. It required a well engineered solution and careful handling of day to day operations.
The truth will out and what started as a trickle is now becoming a flood. Ironic isn't it? 'Blame it on the rain' was never a valid excuse for the ecological impacts on Gladstone Harbour. Such an ecological collapse has never happened yet, no matter how much rain we have had and for it to occur several months after the floods was never scientifically credible.
Firstly, we have this leaked report which shows that the bund wall was constructed with sub-standard materials, and that the geo textile filter which should have been installed within the wall was simply laid on top. This caused the bund wall to leak and toxic materials to leach into the surrounding water.
Someone profited from the sub-standard installation - the question is who? I know who didn't - the local fishing industry and the local people.
We knew that the Ports Corporation had applied to get the rules on turbidity testing changed just for them, but we didn't know the exact reasons. They certainly weren't forthcoming on the exact reasons themselves. If they had just come out and said at the time that the process wasn't working, that there was urgent need to fix the bund wall, if they had just stopped what they were doing to take a deep breath and re-assess the situation. But no, when there is money involved it is full steam ahead and damn the dugongs and turtles.
Too right it is refusing to answer questions. You see, there is a huge liability issue which you can read about here. I believe the Gladstone Ports Corporation failed us on many levels. They failed to choose the correct contractors. They failed to monitor the actions of those contractors. They failed to adequately monitor water quality. They failed to ensure no environmental harm, and most of all, they have failed to acknowledge their mistakes.
The people of Gladstone at the very least deserve an apology.
Right. So now I'm thinking that the current government is personally targeting myself. It's as though they are a 6 year old, pushing random emotional buttons to see if they can get mummy to explode. (Yes, yes I did, but that's another story).
So I'm making a list. In keeping with the season, it's a naughty list. You (government of every level) have been very very bad.
Here are the bad things you have done which affect me personally.
1. You allowed dredging of Gladstone Harbour, ruining a fishing industry and refusing me my Australian right to queue for 2 hours in the December sun to buy locally caught prawns for Christmas.
2. You allowed great big bulldozers to clear a great swathe of Curtis Island so that as I drove over the hill, I no longer caught sight of a sweeping blue vista with a green island, but felt sick at the sight of bare earth, tanks and pipelines. I don't go that way any more.
3. You absolutely refuse to do anything about renewable energy, causing me to have to go out and spend my hard earned dollars on buying my own solar panels so that you might get the message.
4. You refuse to subsidise public transport so that it is cheaper for me to drive to Brisbane than to take the train, which I love to do.
5. You removed the schoolkids bonus. Do you know how fast my son is growing at the moment? I buy Weet-bix and milk by the case. At Aldi. I'm thinking of getting a truck to deliver and bypass the supermarket altogether. Every cent of that bonus last year was spent in a local store on school uniforms. I have no idea how I'll afford his man-size clothes this year.
6. You won't deal with climate change. I live on a flood plain. Most of the time it rocks. Sometimes it sucks (about every 20 years). Unless you start dealing with climate change, I might have to deal with a flood every year. That would take the fun out of summer.
7. I cringe every time I look at the news. All levels of government are embarrassing. You know I have German relatives, right? They do love organisation and efficiency. How can I hold my head up in international relations on Facebook when their country has its s*** together and we appear to have accidentally elected several levels of government that has no idea what it is doing.
8. You treat refugees appallingly. Aforesaid German relatives were refugees at one point. So was my mother. Where is your humanity? More to the point, who looks at your books? It's cheaper to put all refugees on the dole than to house them in sub-standard conditions on some god-forsaken island. So where is the money going? Bring them all to Australia, put them up, put them on the dole while they find their feet and then let them loose to cause all sorts of wonderful food and businesses to appear in our cities and towns. On the boat my mother arrived on in the 1950's (yes, a boat, go and arrest her, I dare you) was a man who started the first delicatessen in 'Sydeney'. So stick that up your pastrami.
9. You appear to be taking brown paper bags from any business at all.
10. You seem to have forgotten that you are our employees. I have no idea how you passed your last employment review (otherwise known as an election), but expect a pineapple at the next one unless you mend your ways toot suite - that's french for sort it out before we get a chance to all vote 'none of the above' at the next election.
Anna (and about 20 million other Australians)
CRUCIAL sediment testing in Gladstone Harbour demanded by the Environment Department was not completed before the Federal Government approved the controversial Western Basin dredging project in 2010.
The sediment tests were requested after regulators found initial 1000-borehole testing provided by Gladstone Ports Corporation was lacking in several areas.
The revelation comes just days after the Federal Government approved Arrow Energy's LNG project, and follows news that the State Government is investigating a private lease of the port.
A key area of the Environment Department's request for additional testing was near the RG Tanna Coal Terminal - where molluscs were experiencing the rising effects of a highly toxic chemical (TBT) in 2009. The GPC did not give that information to authorities at the time.
Documents obtained under Freedom of Information revealed the port filed an "exemption from further sediment testing" in July 2010.
Regulators found the initial testing regime was incomplete the next month.
But despite the concerns, and without the data requested, the Federal Government still approved the largest-ever dredging project in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, in October that year.
Additional results were not provided until April 4, 2011. They were not released.
But a GPC spokeswoman said the results were within national dredging guidelines, and that no contaminants exceeded the guidelines, with the exception of locally occurring metals.
She said GPC applied for the exemption as the port "believed that sufficient evidence existed to evaluate the footprint".
But APN Newsdesk has obtained correspondence that shows regulators knocked back the exemption application, over concerns that the distribution of tests were "uneven and not representative of the whole dredge phase area".
Despite the omission of the study on TBT from the EIS potentially breaching federal environment laws, the department said it did "not consider an investigation into this matter is warranted".
A port spokeswoman said the GPC applied for an exemption, "which was not granted by the Federal Government".
"GPC then undertook the additional sampling required to meet the National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging, the regulatory guidelines mandated by the Federal Government," she said.