Queensland slams UNESCO, defends gas on Great Barrier Reef
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Queensland slams UNESCO, defends gas on Great Barrier Reef

UNESCO has released its damning environmental report on the Great Barrier Reef, but the Queensland State Government hit back saying the report poses an obstacle to the multi-billion dollar seam gas business.

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Greenpeace leads the activism against dredging on the Great Barrier Reef (Photo: Greenpeace)

The report came at a time when the Australian mineral boom is well under way and the Queensland Government is excited about financial gains. Queensland Premier Campbell Newman said his Government understands the issues raised in the report but could not accommodate some of its chief recommendations, News Corp. reports.

Newman said his government is in the coal business and he is not going to see the economic future of Queensland shut down.

UNESCO sent a team of experts in March to assess the state of the reef, which faces both natural and man-made threats. While natural threats could be beyond our control, the impact of the latter can be minimised if the Queensland Government can review and adopt strategic solutions.

The international body said the World Heritage listed site is under enormous pressure amid increased developmental activities, including additional port infrastructures in and around the Great Barrier Reef and ongoing management of major liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants at Curtis Island and Gladstone Harbour.

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Greenpeace welcomes UN investigation on the overall value of the reef. (Photo: Greenpeace)

The dredging in Gladstone Harbour for the seam gas has been blamed by local environmentalists for the area’s poor water quality and a skin disease affecting marine life. Green activists say dredging has adversely affected whales and dugongs in the area.

UNESCO recommended to the State Government to stop port facilities expansions and to undertake a comprehensive review and strategic solutions to protect the Outstanding Universal Value of the reef.

It warned the reef could officially be listed “in danger” if the federal Government fails to convince the international body it has improved its performance before February next year.

Whether Queensland will be able to help improve environmental conditions of the reef or not, both state and federal governments have already given mineral explorations the go-ahead. Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke supports the developmental projects saying the approval of applications has been in full swing. He said there was not much he could do to prevent development applications already in progress.

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Mining billionaire Clive Palmer of Queensland Nickel (Photo: Courier Mail)

Mining magnates Clive Palmer and Gina Rinehart have likewise secured government’s approval for their mining ventures in Queensland. Further, the two mining lords have  been pressuring the Government to allow them to build the world’s largest coal export facility right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The facility is envisioned  to double Australia’s coal exports. The mining moguls expect to hear the Government’s decision in 36 weeks’ time, GetUp noted.

GetUp, an activist group, said mining billionaires are used to getting their way, “but they’re not the only ones who know how to fight.”  The group has forged ties with Greenpeace and BankTrack to undertake an advertising campaign in key financial markets in Asia and India to warn potential investors not to invest in these projects.

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Greenpeace is patrolling the Great Barrier Reef. (Photo:Greenpeace)

It’s not just UNESCO that is against the massive expansion of coal and coal seam gas facilities. A recent opinion poll found that 79 per cent of  Australians are already concerned about the expansion of mining along the Reef’s recognised heritage area – and that was before UNESCO’s  scathing criticisms started to make headlines nationwide.

GetUp is optimistic the ad campaign will work.  It claims that  in 2009, it funded ads in the European Financial Times to discourage potential investors who were previously considering to fund Gunns’ pulp mill in Tasmania.