: Environment


Allan Ardill

A controversial secondment has seen a senior manager of QCoal in charge of developing policy on the environment for Queensland’s LNP. ABC news reported that James Mackay also worked full-time for the LNP during the 2012 election, while he was being paid $10 000 a month by the company, QCoal. QCoal is embroiled in controversy over plans to divert Coral Creek in north Queensland. It won a water licence from the state government to divert Coral Creek to extend the life of its Sonoma mine by six to eight months.

Australia’s biggest coalmine project has been given the green light despite serious environmental concerns. The $16.5 billion Carmichael project in the Galilee Basin west of Rockhampton is forecast to be the largest coal mine in Australia and one of the largest in the world, covering 200 square kilometres and producing about 60 million tonnes of coal a year.

A tourism industry group, the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (‘AMPTO’) is taking the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (‘GBRMPA’) and the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (‘NQBPC’) to court to challenge the decision to allow the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. AMPTO is challenging a decision to allow three million cubic metres of dredge spoil from the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion at Bowen to be dumped at sea.

In another case GBRMPA had identified serious concerns with a huge marina development, before then approving the project. The $600 million eco-tourism resort on Great Keppel Island will include a beachfront hotel, 350 apartments, 250 birth marina, golf course, and 700 luxury villas. The project will also involve dredging and a sewage treatment facility.

Both the Queensland and Australian governments gave the green light to the development, despite an initial finding by GBRMPA that the environmental impact statement was ‘contradictory, vague and missing a substantial amount of information’. The government claims that development is not the main threat to the reef and instead the major threat to the reef is from storms and cyclones and nutrient run-off over the last decade. In May 2014, UNESCO outlined its concerns over the decision to dispose of dredge spoil near the reef. But in June the government announced five ‘mega ports’ would be allowed along the coast involving dredging near the reef. The plan also provides for a 10-year moratorium on dredging near the reef outside the five mega ports.

Lastly, following the Deputy Premier’s claim that the Wild Rivers laws were politically motivated to win green votes at the last general election, and were stifling development, the government has repealed that legislation and replaced it with the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014. Earlier the Federal Court had declared that three of the rivers subject to the Wild Rivers Act had been invalidly declared although the Act itself was not brought into question in Koowarta v State of Queensland [2014] FCA 627.

ALLAN ARDILL teaches law at Griffith Law School.

(2014) 39(3) AltLJ 198
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