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Let’s dump Great Barrier Reef dredging myths: authority chief

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s recent decision to allow 3 million cubic metres of dredge material to be disposed of 25 kilometres off Abbot Point in north Queensland has attracted passionate…

Already operating as a coal port, the disposal of dredge material from expanding Abbot Point is now the subject of a legal challenge. GBRMPA

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s recent decision to allow 3 million cubic metres of dredge material to be disposed of 25 kilometres off Abbot Point in north Queensland has attracted passionate commentary around the world.

An aerial shot of coral reef. GBRMPA

Millions of people from Australia and overseas have a fierce desire to protect one of the world’s most beautiful natural wonders. As the independent body managing the Great Barrier Reef for future generations, all of us at the Authority understand and share that desire: it’s what makes us want to come to work every day.

But the debate about Abbot Point has been marked by considerable misinformation, including claims about “toxic sludge”, dumping coal on the reef and even mining the reef. Late last week, it was confirmed that our decision to allow the dredge disposal will be challenged in court.

So what’s true, and what’s not? I hope with this article, I can clear up some of those misunderstandings on behalf of the Authority, particularly about our role, the nature and scale of the dredge disposal activity, and its likely environmental impacts.

If you still have questions at the end of this article, I and others from our team at the Authority will be reading your comments below and we’ll do our best to reply to further questions on The Conversation.

A sizeable challenge

At 344,400 square kilometres, the Marine Park is roughly the same area as Japan or Italy.

The Great Barrier Reef, relative to other parts of the world. GBRMPA

Of this vast and richly diverse expanse, one-third is highly protected; some places are near pristine, while others are feeling the effects of centuries of human uses.

But rather than locking the entire area away, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) role — as set out under Australian law — is to protect the region’s ecosystem, while also ensuring it remains a multiple-use marine park open to sustainable use. This includes tourism, commercial fishing, shipping and other operations.

While there are five major ports in the region, to this day only 1% of the World Heritage Area is set aside for ports. Most of the region’s 12 ports existed long before the Marine Park was created in 1975, and nearly all fall inside the World Heritage Area, but outside the park itself.

Responding to “toxic” claims

Among the many claims made about the Abbot Point decision is the assertion that the “Reef will be dredged” and that “toxic sludge” will be dumped in marine waters.

Both of those claims are simply wrong, as are suggestions that coal waste will be unloaded into the Reef, that this natural wonder is about to be mined, or that Abbot Point is a new coal port.

The Abbot Point port, looking out to the terminal and beyond. GBRMPA

The reality is that disposal of dredge material of this type in the Marine Park is not new. It has occurred off nearly all major regional centres along the reef’s coastline before now.

It is a highly regulated activity and does not allow material to be placed on coral, seagrass or sensitive marine environments.

The material itself in Abbot Bay is about 60% sand and 40% silt and clay, which is similar to what you would see if you dug up the site where the material is to be relocated.

In addition, testing by accredited laboratories shows the material is not toxic, and is therefore suitable for ocean disposal.

Limiting new port development

As Queensland’s population has grown over the past 150 years, so too have the size and number of ports along the Great Barrier Reef coastline.

Abbot Point’s location on Queensland’s coast, with the boundary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park marked in red. GBRMPA

We recognise the potential environmental risks posed at a local level by this growth, which is why we have strongly advocated limiting port development to existing major ports — such as Abbot Point — as opposed to developing new sites.

This will produce a far better outcome than a proliferation of many, albeit smaller, ports along the coastline. And that’s not just our view: it’s a view shared by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which oversees the Great Barrier Reef’s listing as one of Australia’s 19 World Heritage sites.

Given Abbot Point has been a major port for the past 30 years, our approval of the dredge disposal permit application from North Queensland Bulk Ports is entirely consistent with this position.

The added benefit of the port is its access to naturally deep waters, meaning it requires less capital dredging than other ports. It also has a much lower need for maintenance dredging.

What’s being done to protect the reef?

With this as our backdrop, we analysed the potential impacts and risks to the Great Barrier Reef from disposing dredge spoil off Abbot Point within the Marine Park.

In this case, we reached the conclusion that with 47 stringent conditions in place, it could be done in a way that makes us confident there will be no significant impact on the reef’s world heritage values.

These safeguards are designed specifically to ensure potential impacts are avoided, mitigated or offset, and to prevent harm to the environmental, cultural or heritage values associated with the nearby Holbourne Island fringing reef, Nares Rock, and the Catalina World War II wreck.

Our conditions are in addition to those already imposed by the federal government in prior approvals.

Holbourne Island. GBRMPA

Is “dumping on the reef” allowed?

Again, just to clear up any confusion: the dredge material will not be “dumped on the reef”.

Instead, we are looking at an area within the Marine Park that is about 25 kilometres east-northeast of the port at Abbot Point, and about 40 kilometres from the nearest offshore reef.

When the dredge disposal occurs, the material will only be allowed to be placed in a defined 4 square kilometre site free of hard corals, seagrass beds and other sensitive habitats.

If oceanographic conditions such as tides, winds, waves and currents are likely to produce adverse impacts, the disposal will not be allowed to proceed.

As an added precaution, the activity can only happen between March and June, as this falls outside the coral spawning and seagrass growth periods. As the sand, silt and clay itself will be dredged in stages over three years, the annual disposal volume will be capped at 1.3 million cubic metres.

Compared with other sites in this region, it is much less than has been done in the past. For example, in 2006 there were 8.6 million cubic metres of similar sediments excavated and relocated in one year at Hay Point, near Mackay. Scientific monitoring showed no significant effects on the ecosystem.

The dredge disposal from Abbot Point will be a highly managed activity — and it will not, as some headlines have suggested, mean the Great Barrier Reef will become a sludge repository or that tonnes of mud will be dumped on coral reefs.

This is not Gladstone Harbour all over again

I have often heard during this debate that Abbot Point will become “another Gladstone”.

I can assure you that GBRMPA understands strongly the need to learn the lessons from past port developments, including ones like Gladstone that fall outside of the Marine Park. This is why the recommendations from an independent review into Gladstone Harbour have been factored into our conditions.

Much of the criticism of the development at Gladstone Harbour centred on monitoring and who was doing it. This is why one the most common questions we’ve heard at GBRMPA about Abbot Point is “Who is going to make sure this is all done properly?”

The answer is: there will be multiple layers of independent oversight. Indeed, past authors on The Conversation have used Townsville’s port as a good example of how local impacts can be managed safely through transparent, independent monitoring and reporting, and active on-site management.

The Port of Townsville. GBRMPA

This is why we will have a full-time staff member from GBRMPA located at the port to oversee and enforce compliance during dredge disposal operations. This supervisor has the power to stop, suspend or modify works to ensure conditions are met.

In addition, an independent technical advice panel and an independent management response group will be formed. Membership of both these bodies will need the approval of GBRMPA.

Importantly, the management response group will include expert scientists as well as representatives from the tourism and fishing industries, and conservation groups. Together, GBRMPA and those other independent scrutineers will be overseeing the disposal, and will have the final say — not North Queensland Bulk Ports, which operates Abbot Point, or the coal companies that use the port.

Water quality monitoring will take place in real-time to measure factors such as suspended solids, turbidity and light availability. This is in addition to a long-term water quality monitoring program that will run for five years — much longer than what is normally required.

It’s vital that there is utmost transparency and scrutiny of what happens. We believe that with our staff on the job, plus independent oversight that includes the community, it will be a highly transparent process.

What are limits of the Authority’s powers?

It is true to say that despite all these safeguards, placing dredge material on land rather than in the Marine Park remains our preferred choice, providing it does not mean transferring environmental impact to sensitive wetlands connected to the reef ecosystem.

Indeed, land-based disposal is an option that must always be examined under national dredging guidelines.

But we recognise onshore disposal is not always immediately practical. Some of the challenges include finding suitable land, the need for dredge settlement ponds and delivery pipelines, and potential impacts on surrounding environments.

Ultimately, what occurs on land is outside of GBRMPA’s jurisdiction. We do not make decisions about mines, railways and loading facilities, and have never had the power to compel a port authority to place dredged material onshore or to build an extension to existing jetties.

Nor do we have the ability to stop dredge disposal from occurring in port limits that fall inside the World Heritage Area, but outside of the Marine Park.

Our legislative powers simply enable us to approve or reject a permit application for an action in the Marine Park, or to approve it with conditions.

Based on the considerable scientific evidence before us, we approved the application for Abbot Point with conditions, on the basis that potential impacts from offshore disposal were manageable and that there would be no significant or lasting impacts on the reef’s world heritage values.

Improving protection for the reef

Our recent assessments show the dominant risks to the health of the reef are the effects of climate change, excess sediment and nutrient run-off (such as from widespread floods), outbreaks of coral-eating starfish, extreme weather, and some types of fishing.

Coastal development such as ports are assessed as significant but local in their effects. However, many small impacts can accumulate and we take the risks posed by local developments very seriously. Each proposal is assessed on its merits and an approval at Abbot Point does not mean the same action would be approved elsewhere.

It is GBRMPA’s strong view that the current situation where governments and agencies make decisions on individual parts of individual projects – in the absence of a larger strategic plan – needs to change.

Assessing development applications on a case-by-case basis creates unnecessary uncertainty for local communities as well as the ports sector. But it also heightens environmental risks. As a previous Conversation article explained, when we only consider development applications in isolation, we increase the danger of potential cumulative environmental impacts on the reef over a wide geographic area not being properly assessed.

This was highlighted in our strategic assessment and can be readily addressed through master planning of port infrastructure and operations, as proposed by the Australian Government’s National Ports Strategy 2011.

We support the intention of the Queensland Government’s draft Ports Strategy to keep future port development within existing designated port areas. However, the next step should be to incorporate consistent reef protection measures into the master plans for each port, as part of a much-needed strategy that considers cumulative impacts for the entire Great Barrier Reef region.

* Editor’s note: Thanks for all your comments, it’s been a terrific response. Russell Reichelt and others from the Marine Park Authority have said they’ll keep reading your comments to see if any significant new concerns arise.

If you’re looking for a particular answer – eg. the news about FOI documents, board members' conflicts of interest, land-based disposal – there’s a good chance it’s been answered in the comments below. For a fast search of Russell Reichelt’s answers, use the Find function to search for “Chairman and Chief Executive”.

Thanks for being part of this conversation - Liz Minchin.

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598 Comments sorted by

    1. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to John Phillip

      There apparently was no conflict of interest found, something like "having an interest in coal mining or CSG is not a conflict of interest as their projects had not yet begun"

      sorted

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    2. Paul Dee

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to john byatt

      Not so sorted...Favourable outcomes from decisions made prior to the physical commencement of a development is a conflict of interest. They are creating a development environment from which they will benefit.

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    3. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Paul Dee

      I should have used the Sarc off option then?

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    4. harry oblong

      tree surgeon

      In reply to john byatt

      of course there is a confict of interest ,the twisted findings don't matter.common sense tells you there is..

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    5. kiri theo

      Animal Rescue

      In reply to john byatt

      John Byatt you think they wont be trying to influence the outcome of THIS because THEIR projects have yet to begin? Really? Read the previous sentence and have a think about how big business "LOBBIES" for any project.

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    6. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to kiri theo

      none of you even understood my sarcasm , head bang

      ""having an interest in coal mining or CSG is not a conflict of interest as their projects had not yet begun"

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    7. Marcus Anderson

      logged in via email @marcusanderson.com.au

      In reply to Craig Myatt

      The first problem with this article is the Disclosure.

      "Russell Reichelt does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.". Clearly, that statement is both false and misleading as Russell works for the Marine Authority responsible for the decision to dump.

      Given that The Conversation is ignoring that whopping lie, what other academic fraud is going on here?

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    8. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Marcus Anderson

      Hi Marcus

      Our disclosure questions are designed to catch anything you wouldn't otherwise know from the author's job title or profile. I oversaw this article and thought it was very clear what Russell's job was... But happy to be as transparent as possible, we've updated the disclosure to restate his job title.

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    9. Don Grapentin

      Pensioner

      In reply to John Phillip

      See that is what you get for reading Murdock publications, the truth has been reported in many other independent papers of the fact that 2 board members are tied to coal mines and CSG, previous recommendations from the GBRMPA stated they were against the dumping, right up until the election, enter the Minister for Environmental Destruction and the decision gets changed, could it have possibly done under the threat of loss of funding ??????

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    10. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Craig Myatt

      Hi Craig, decisions relating to project and development approvals, including the one associated with Abbot Point, are not taken by the board. These responsibilities are delegated to the agency’s senior management.

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    11. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to john byatt

      The probity inquiry into two board members was conducted by an independent legal expert. It found the two board members appropriately disclosed their financial and personal interests. The board members’ employment and assets, which they declared, were not considered to be a real or apparent conflict of interest under the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct.

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    12. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Don Grapentin

      GBRMPA is an independent regulatory agency which is required to make an independent decision under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 and the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981. Consistent with our Act, we took into account the fact that the Minister had provided an approval, as well as the recommendation report that the Environment Department had provided to the Minister. Absolutely no political pressure was brought to bear on GBRMPA.

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    13. Craig Myatt

      Industrial Designer / R&D

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      OK, noted this was not your personal decision. You did say:

      "the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) role — as set out under Australian law — is to protect the region’s ecosystem, while also ensuring it remains a multiple-use marine park open to sustainable use."

      Under section 7(1B,2,3) and given the constitution of the board, the impression the legislation gives is that you personally would be responsible for "the management of the Marine Park." Surely the reason you are writing the article is that you feel responsible.

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    14. Robert Porter

      post job observer

      In reply to Craig Myatt

      Russell is a key facilitator of a quantum increase in the amount of coal thats going to enter into the environment. He is therefore atop of my list of climate troglogytes together with Greg Hunt and his boss. I hope to publish my list of the 101 best/worst facilitator actions to snuffle the world with carbon this coming year. This ones right up there.

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    15. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Craig Myatt

      and not one word about the GBR World Heritage Area. A large part of the problem is that the GBRWHA has no legislation dedicated to protecting it in for its natural (scientific and aesthetic values) in perpetuity, as the World Heritage Convention requires. A case of governments wanting the green badge without earning it. The GBRMPA can hide behind the arbitrary boundaries of "The Park" and pretend there is no connection.

      As I understand the GBRMPA structure, Russell as GBRMPA CEO gets advice from assessment staff, then reports to himself as Chair of the Board. I would have thought a Chair would have advised the two ports-connected Board members they should properly abstain. If there was a Chair's casting vote, which way did it go?

      Of course it would be naive to think that assessors are not under pressure to provide what the boss wants, just as CEOs and Chairs often think they should give the Minister what he/she wants (ethics vs career).

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    16. Craig Myatt

      Industrial Designer / R&D

      In reply to Margaret Moorhouse

      While I am not very familiar with the GBRMP Act, I think the World Heritage Convention would actually have some legal status in a court case, if the GBRMP Act is ambiguous, or worded in a way that allows interpretation, as it likely does. That is because under High Court precedents, (eg Teoh, Plaintiff S157, Mabo) the court favours a construction of laws so that they accord with Australia's treaty obligations, like the World Heritage Convention, which we ratified in 1974. So the values you are referring to would actually be then connected to a court decision, via the common law, in theory, or at least could be.

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    17. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Craig Myatt

      Thank you for the information, interesting. No doubt there will be lawyers examining those cases.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Paul Gillen

      No doubt some will see it as you do Paul for yes,
      1. A lot of comment has not been factually based and in fact a divergence from the facts with comments on a previous article on TC has been used to slew the situation appraisal.
      TC and the author are to be commended for putting the facts accurately and clearly for assessment.
      2. If by worse things you mean what has occurred with Gladstone Harbour, as stated whilst that is outside of the GBRMPA control, many people including the GBRMPA have noted what is to be learnt.
      3. I am not sure from where you draw such a conclusion.
      40 km. is a long way btw.
      4. We can agree.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Sarah Glass

      And what Sarah, would you propose is used in the meantime and how/where would you be employing people and getting revenue for all those things in life that people want and in some cases do not want.

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    3. Paul Gillen

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, yes, (3) is not very clear - I meant that the port and associated dredging could be done with less regulatory oversight than is going to occur.
      But as a number of other comments have agreed, the essential question is whether more coal should be mined. Apart from Chinese air quality and the well-canvassed problem of extra CO2 warming the planet's surface, there is also the issue of long term energy supplies. At present rates of extraction, most experts estimate there to be a few hundred years' worth of coal before it starts to take more energy to mine it than it yields. A few hundred years is a long time for a person, or a corporation, or even a nation, but it's a very short period in the history of a species. As a species, we are doing better at the moment than we have ever done, or in all likelihood will ever do again. Why not leave a few goodies around for the less fortunate people of the future will have to live with the mess we are making?

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Sarah Glass

      We may have plenty of coal for power generation ourselves Sarah, as much as people would wish we were not using it for generating, however the black coal exported can also be used for industry to produce components that could likely fo into wind turbines and solar farms.
      Moving to renewables will never be as quick as many would hope for just the sheer size of any projects would not be handled by our ever depleting manufacturing base and then of course there will be the financing aspects not to mention…

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    5. Andrew Bromage

      Research Engineer

      In reply to Paul Gillen

      Moreover, to be completely fair to Prof. Reichelt, he is not in charge of approving coal mine expansions. He is in charge of protecting the Marine Park given that the coal mine is going to be expanded whether he wants it to or not.

      You're 100% right that he has not endorsed the mine expansion, and nor has he criticised it. This is as it should be. With great authority comes the responsibility to exercise great tact.

      It comes as a relief to know that the Marine Park is in good hands. If we care about the evidence (and I hope that everyone who reads TC does), it's time to shift the focus away from the reef and towards mining policy.

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    6. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg there is wind for when the sun goes down and there are all sorts of batteries and things that technology can and is coming up with that show that renewable are going to be successful.

      Do look for some evidence from the other side of the issue.

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    7. Rick Sullivan

      Vast and Various

      In reply to Greg North

      I just love that it's called 'Abbot (t) Point. It wasn't pre-named after that champion of all things environmental, Tony Abbott, was it?

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Arthur

      So you may claim David whether it happens or not.
      Cyclones and storms stir up sea bed sediment all the time David you will notice if you take some coastal walks during stormy weather.
      And then you have all that is in material flushed out of rivers when there have been floods, the Starfish likely dining like royalty on carcases etc.

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    9. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Arthur

      You should have a look at how many people are employed in all of constructions, opereations and maintenance David, even with large machines being used.
      All those people with jobs would need to find employment elsewhere and not so easy to do with unemployment on the rise.
      As to how Australians can make their living, there truely are limitations and the Australia of the future is likely to be vastly different to the recent past just as the present and recent past has been different to the longer past times.
      Perhaps we are entering into a cyclical stage where people will need to be doing more for themselves for we cannot just keep having all we want courtesy of government borrowing and hand-outs.

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    10. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Fry

      Just how many 24/7 Solar plants are there Peter, what capacity and just how long have they been running.
      I suspect the answers ( without reviewing numbers I have looked at in the past ) will still be very few, next to nothing, and not long.
      The Molten salt heat storage is still in its infancy and little is known of longer term operations, maintenance requirements nor reliability, it quite possible that you will find they still not claimed to be potentially 24/7.
      Sure, storage systems are being explored, large industrial batteries etc. but all of this is still really in the speculation arena and costs will likely be speculative too.

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    11. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Rick Sullivan

      I think you could well find Rick that Tony has had his surname for over half a century so perhaps his potential was recognised some time ago, not so much Commeth the Man but the Man for our next century has been born was the point back then.

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    12. Peter Fry

      retired

      In reply to Greg North

      The wikipedia entry you listed says nothing significant about the limitations of solar storage that I can see Greg, so I hope nobody was taken in by your post. Yes the costs in these early plants are higher but we would expect that and they will fall. Crescent Dunes in Nevada is now coming on line, thanks to an Obama policy where the US government underwrote finance to enable contracts for renewable base load power to be signed . People can read about it here.. http://cleantechnica.com/2014/02/14/crescent-dunes-ready-to-charge-up-solar-salt-battery/

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    13. Sarah Glass
      Sarah Glass is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired scientist/technologist

      In reply to Greg North

      Try this source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-19/u-s-approves-two-first-solar-projects-in-california-and-nevada.html

      I realise that moving to solar and wind will involve a lot of change, but we have done this before. When electricity first became available the power lines were put in relatively quickly in urban areas and were first only used for street lighting!! No one saw the full benefit for a while!

      We could be building solar and wind plants now, in fact we are doing so but…

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    14. Nel Matheson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Paul Gillen

      Thank you Paul. Your points do seem to sum it up fairly well. The justification for the mine and port needs to be examined to determine the necessity for expansion of coal mining. We are moving steadily towards renewable energy resources and away from polluting industries such as coal, in spite of strident opposition. These decisions have nothing to do with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, but are enabled by their decision to allow dredging. This is tantamount to a complicit agreement that mining and shipment in this area is acceptable, and I would question that.

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    15. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Greg North

      Thanks for that, Mr North.

      In the medium term, coal-mining and coal industry jobs won't cut it, because coal exports will cease within a couple of decades.

      Regarding how australians can make a living, when Australia stops importing manufactured goods there'll be oodles of jobs. So when will Australia stop importing manufactured goods? As soon as it realises that we've got to stop burning oil - which means there'll be no more oil-burning ships coming over the horizon with cheap goods.

      We…

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    16. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Greg North

      Thanks Mr North, it's not me who's claiming that dumping dredge spoil is not a Good Idea, it's the considered finding of JCU Senior Research Officer Jon Brodie and colleagues.

      Mr Brodie has even written about this issue here at 'TC', in an article to which you haven't commented, so presumably haven't read: "Dredging set to swamp decades of Great Barrier Reef protection, https://theconversation.com/dredging-set-to-swamp-decades-of-great-barrier-reef-protection-20442

      All that material flushed…

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    17. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to David Arthur

      Hi David, crown-of-thorns starfish larvae don't feed off resuspended fine sediments. Numbers increase when there is greater availability of nutrients. This increases the food supply for crown-of-thorns starfish larvae, and this in turn increases survival rates.

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    18. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Sarah Glass

      Sarah, Who is at 30% renewable? Are you thinking about Germany? If so then I suggest you go and look at the IEA figures ( http://bit.ly/1ky28cp ) YTD figures don't include Dec, but for the other 11 months the IEA give total production as 504 TWh of which 13% are "Geothermal/Other" ... which includes Wind+Solar, another 4.5% was from Hydro. All the rest is from "Combustible" or Nuclear or Imports. Some of the "Combustible" does include burning forests and waste but the former isn't at all environmentally…

      Read more
    19. Craig Somerton

      IT Professional

      In reply to Greg North

      So it is perfectly acceptable to have industries that destroy the environment because they create employment?

      The renewables sector has the capacity to employ just as many, if not vastly more people than mining. Development, design, construction, operation and maintenance, with 1/100th of the destruction, and in doing so we de-couple ourselves a fossil fuel, leading to greater energy independence. Add to this the spin-offs in science and innovation and we establish ourselves at the forefront…

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    20. Prue Gibbs

      citizen

      In reply to Craig Somerton

      That's it, exactly, Craig.
      Whether one agrees or disagrees with this comment, that's how things stand.

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    21. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Thanks for that clarification, Prof Reichelt.

      Does sediment resuspension not affect nutrient availability? I'd expect sediment to include organic (C-N-P-S-O) matter, which could be metabolised upon redispersion in the water column.

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    22. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to David Arthur

      Perhaps I can help here since this is my area of expertise - nutrients and COTS. Sure resuspended sediment injects nutrients into the water column. However the area we are worried about with respect to COTS outbreak promotion is north of Cairns and so anything happening at Abbot Point is most likely too far south to have an impact. However nutrients when present in excessive amounts have many nasty effects including increased bleaching in corals, algal proliferation at the expense of corals, more bioerosion of coral reefs, increased turbidity, more coral disease outbreaks and toxic algal blooms. So the release of nutrients from benthic sediments through dredging and spoil dumping is certainly an issue.

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    23. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      Thanks for this clarification, Jon.

      Why is Abbott Point too far south for COTS recruitment to be an issue: temperature?

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    24. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to David Arthur

      Waves of COTS outbreaks have always started in the area to the north of and including offshore Cairns (in 1960s, 1978, 1993, 2010). The explanation is that this is the area where large scale increases in nutrient enrichment from fertiliser losses in rivers to the south - Barron, Russell Mulgrave, Johnstone, Tully, Herbert and perhaps the Burdekin reach the mid shelf reefs off Cairns and cause phytoplankton to bloom - the food for COTS larvae. The river discharge plumes normally are pushed up the coast by SE wind regime. Hence Reef rescue is heavily focussed on reducing fertiliser losses from cropping in these catchments. Abbot Point is just too far to the south and the amounts of nutrients released during dredging will be relatively small compared to fertiliser losses.

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    25. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      Oh dear. I've "won" several online discussions through my misunderstanding of your findings. I shall be more circumspect on this issue while I seek further understanding.

      While I may have been confusing Reef Rescue with Q Govt's Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, http://www.reefplan.qld.gov.au/about/regions/mackay-whitsunday/mackay-whitsunday-2011-report-card.aspx, I also note that the Burnet-Mary Regional Group has been active under the Reef Rescue scheme: http://www.bmrg.org.au/our-programs/sustainable-landscapes/ree/

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    26. Jon Brodie

      Research scientist

      In reply to David Arthur

      Nutrient management is important for many reasons besides COTS. As I posted these are bleaching enhancement, algal proliferation, bioerosion of coral reefs, coral disease, seagrass health and others. So it's very important to manage nutrient runoff in the Burnett Mary region just as it is further north. In fact very important in this region as probably the best seagrass meadows and dugong populations left south od Torres Strait are in Hervey Bay (which is south of the GBRWHA).

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    27. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Greg North

      Gladstone harbour has an offshore dump site within a few short ks of the GBRMP boundary as the currents travel and it does travel, right over protected zones of the GBRMP. This includes those off the front of Curtis island as well as within the Narrows, then there are the dugong protection zones. Yet we were also told how the "reef" was such a great distance away from the Port. These values are similar between the sites. The big difference being the exchange rates. Even so, Abbot point spoil plumes…

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    28. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      The sediments will contain available nutrient, there is also the resuspended fine particles that hold organic material, that can well cycle into nutrient. We are way behind the eight ball when it comes to protecting the reef right now. Whilst we may know a lot of the processes, we are not considering the processes thoroughly enough. The cumulative effects of multiple campaigns up and down the cost over a short period should be considered long after the cumulative effects of a single campaign on top of all the other pre existing cumulative effects. While the idea of considering the impacts of a greater number of campaigns as a whole might seem warranted right now, we are still yet to reduce the current declines in water quality let alone figure if it can take 5 or 6 projects like this over the next decade. The total planned dredge volumes makes for a hell of a lot of additional nutrient and organic matter, at a time that the reef has already lost a great capacity to deal with that.

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    29. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Greg North

      Sorry Greg, that's not a good argument.

      Without differentiating between dredge spoil and sediment re-suspended by wind waves, or the standard required for world heritage area protection, what you're suggesting is "the area survives natural sediment stirring so adding some more won't cause harm". Why then does the GBRMPA impose conditions, if not to reduce the amount of harm that seadumping is known to cause?

      Look at it this way: a natural area can be said to be defined by its natural history…

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    30. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Greg North

      And we cannot just going on having jobs at the expense of the natural world. Large as it is compared with us, it's a finite system.

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    1. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Michael Hooper

      Yes Michael we already know what Russel's reply to that will be, Outside their responsibilities, but is it ? No if it is detrimental to the reef then i does fall within their responsibility, the article concentrates on toxicity yet very few comments here actually brought that up, We will find out later this year what the rest of the planet thinks about it,

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    1. Rebecca Wood

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Andrew Vincent

      Yes I too would like this change of heart explained. The original report states that “The GBRMPA considers that even with best endeavours, the likely impact of the dredging and disposal on nearby benthic [sea floor] habitats and threatened species would be environmentally and socially unacceptable”. I would like you to outline how you have now determined that the dumping of dredge spoil even with the restrictions you suggest above, will not have a detrimental effect on the surrounding environment, considering that this process will see large volumes of settled clay and silt become re-suspended, and could travel from the dumping site to smother nearby sea grass and coral.

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    2. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Andrew Vincent

      Hi Andrew, the documents referred to in the ABC news story refer to preliminary working drafts which were not submitted for consideration to the delegate, who is the senior manager responsible for making a decision on behalf of the Authority. It's also critical to note that the draft permit assessment mentioned in the story was written before stringent conditions were applied on the disposal activity. Without these conditions being imposed, it is likely that GBRMPA would have refused the permit application.

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    3. Jan Arens

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Russell, Here you go again, qualifying the conditions as "stringent", what does that even mean, other than create the facade that there is an intent to actually apply them in a meaningful way. Remember those stringent conditions in Gladstone had all the get-out-of-jail-free options in the fine print of the permit to allow the bund wall to leak without breaching the condition that said it shouldn't leak. How do you recon you will enforce the 150% water quality improvement offset without if you haven't even the courage to stand up for your management's decisions?

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    4. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      So the preliminary working drafts that were not submitted to the delegate is what allowed the difference between "even with best endeavours..impacts to endangered species.. environmentally and socially unacceptable " to "approved with stringent conditions" Perhaps this might not be understood by the marine creatures, but it seems it is understood by a good number of posters here. Not socially acceptable has been ticked so far and i would guess this is why there are now articles like this one as well as some public perception grooming going on under the banner of the QLD government reef facts, who so happens to own the port and who happened to own Gladstone port as well. Not so much fact came out on that place just yet.

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    5. Daniel Robinson

      Barrister

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Those are important points and they do answer the question in a narrow sense, but I would be interested to hear an answer to what I think was the underlying spirit in which the question was asked, namely:

      *** what exactly are the points of difference in professional opinion between the author(s) of the working drafts and the senior manager who made the end decision? ***

      I understand that this doesn't constitute a "change of heart", just a difference in approach by different experts at different points in the process, but it would still be very useful to help the public understand and appraise the decision that was made.

      I would expect that the author(s) of the drafts were also required to turn their mind to whether their concerns could be adequately addressed through permit conditions - if so, then the observation that the final conditions were imposed later in the process may well be true but misses the point.

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    1. Ron Walboom

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Roger Jones

      Well said. Why is it that the "bigger picture" always fades into the background when short-sighted economic gains are "needed"?

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    2. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Adam Cardilini

      Not only is climate change and its causes ignored, there is another poor (GBRMPA) argument here: the pretence that the only risks to be considered are "the dominant risks". In other words, as long as we can assess something outside our jurisdiction as "the dominant" bad impact, we can approve anything else with impunity.

      The better argument would be to say: we see that the GBRWHA is at serious risk of demise from climate change, so (while that is being sorted out), we'd better ensure that all other risks are avoided, to give the GBRWHA the best chance of survival and recovery.

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Alan John Hunter

      Hi Alan, the decision on Abbot Point was not taken by the GBRMPA board. Instead, responsibility for decisions relating to project and development approvals rests with the agency’s senior management.

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    2. Matthew T Davis

      Instructor

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      I guess the appropriate question then is:
      How senior and which members, specifically, of the management team?
      Given that we haven't heard of any resignations of senior people from GBRMPA, can we assume that there was no strong dissenting opinion?
      If the board isn't required to approve such decisions, what is it for? Just another gravy train?

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    3. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Matthew T Davis

      Hi Matthew, the board's focus is on broader policy and legislative matters, rather than operational matters.

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    4. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      It is true though that the board had changed policy that effectively allowed an approval as long as the values were considered. it seemed to me that the EIS was saying that its ok because there is more of these creatures and the project would not impact so much as to make any extinct. I am still left wondering if if someone does such a thing and only later do they benefit from that financially, why this is not a conflict.

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    5. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Rangi Faulder

      Unfortunately, there is often some sleight of hand in the drafting of codes of conduct.

      There is the world of difference between the real-life truth of a conflict of interest, and meeting a technical definition.

      The declaration of one's interests, that any reasonable person would accept as meeting real life conditions of conflict of interest, does not itself reduce an alleged conflict of interest. It just makes it public.

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    6. Peter Davies

      Bio-refinery technology developer

      In reply to Margaret Moorhouse

      I have read all of your other posts with interest and nodding agreement. I couldn't agree more here Margaret, as indicated by one of my posts here on the same subject. I love your "creeping barrage" approach overnight, it leaves the opposing viewpoints nowhere to hide other than much deeper underground. As they say, if during life you find yourself in a hole you should stop digging, something the GBRMPA in its attempt to justify the inexcusable is yet to learn, no matter how many million m3 of spoil you have following you to the depths.

      Which leaves us with how do we reverse this decision?

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  1. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    It is refreshing Russell to see the facts clearly put forward and yet no doubt there will still be criticism as are the attitudes to be found on most forums.

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    1. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Greg North

      II might suggest the 'criticism" on most forums merely suggest the majority of the public are in favour of protecting our reef, nothing more. A simplistic argument in support of your view does not make "facts clearly put forward". The reality is that Russell's opinion piece on why their decision has merit, presents very little actual evidence in support of it. The article mentions "the considerable scientific evidence before us", yet we are not presented with any. There is far more, credible support…

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      " II might suggest the 'criticism" on most forums merely suggest the majority of the public are in favour of protecting our reef, nothing more. That's one huge assumption Steven, especially if you note the weighting of contributions on forums such as TC not to mention the even more heavily weighted ones.

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    3. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Greg North

      The "might" in my post is not an assumption, rather a suggestion of one possibility. I do however, note on TC, and most other varied media I view, that the majority of comments are in support of protecting the reef. This has even been true in my observation of Murdoch press.

      I also concede that there would be some more conservative media where that is not the case and also that those passionately opposed to damaging the reef would present their point more prominently than those untroubled by it.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Russell does state in the article Peter that the GBRMPA has no authority on what happens on land though they would have an interest in seeing that significant wetlands etc. are not affected.
      He also states that they have no authority on what can happen in the water if it is outside of the GBRMP.

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    2. Jan Arens

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg North

      Yes Greg, but this time they are inviting the disturbance into the marine park.

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    3. ernest malley

      farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      PO - according to reports at the time, the spoil could not be dumped on land because it was judged to be too toxic. Seriously!

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    4. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Greg North

      Disposing of the spoil is the Applicant's problem, not the GBRMPA's.

      The GBRMPA doesn't have to solve the Applicant's business problems, or improve their bottom line, or give them access to the public good just because the Applicant demands it, or whinges that it is "too hard".

      GBRMPA can have authority on some things which happen outside the GBRMP, eg water quality, by writing regulations under the GBRMP Act clause 66.2E. They have done it before.

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  2. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    Very interesting and refreshingly transparent Russell. But one question.

    Why leave the dredge there in the first place? Why not leave it on land or at another distant site? Is it only because it's cheaper to dump it at Abbot Point?

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to John Newton

      John, Russell in the article has explained how the GBRMPA has no authority on land based operations.
      As to why not find somewhere else, is not 25 km. away and 40 km. from the offshore reef distant enough?

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    2. Jan Arens

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Newton

      What has not been answered is, if that coal must be had, why not build the ships to suit the reef rather than carve up the reef to suit the boats?

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    3. Craig Myatt

      Industrial Designer / R&D

      In reply to Jan Arens

      There was a proposal via Sea Transport (Naval Architects) to do this...I was peripherally aware of the proposal made to those in the LNP government previously. That proposal was for smaller "transshipment" barges, which should have been a far better proposal, because:

      1. It means virtually no dredging
      2. Could accommodate different ports, so more of smaller trips
      3. Manages the real risk that in a few years the infrastructure will be completely wasted, if and when coal ceases to be a commercially viable fuel source, given climate change risks.

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Jan Arens

      Jan, the reef is not being carved up!

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Craig Myatt

      Barges are not decidedly of great ocean going seaworthiness Craig and would sure be one way of seeing plenty of coal go to DJ's locker on the reef!
      I would suggest that those in the shipping industry might know a little about shipping requirements and the like .
      As for coal to cease being a viable fuel within a few years, that is rather wishful thinking, especially if peak oil comes sooner rather than later.

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    6. Jan Arens

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg North

      Ok, a 3 million cubic meter channel is carved through the world heritage property, the spoil of which is dumped in the marine park.
      Better?

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    7. Craig Myatt

      Industrial Designer / R&D

      In reply to Greg North

      Not barges, but transshipment vessels, which are "seaworthy" and also would operate in fairly close shore waters, transferring coal between the port and larger container vessels or a transfer station offshore, as you can see in the link to Sea Transport, who I have done work for in the past:

      http://www.seatransport.com/products-transhipment.php

      This alleviates the need to have any port changes, and could be done in a number of places, and there is a growing global scientific, social and financial cognition that burning coal to produce energy and CO2, is dangerous, high risk, costly and we should be as soon as possible ceasing the practice of it.

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Jan Arens

      I sugegst you not only read this article Jan but others you can find on the technical aspects of the dredging.
      For instance you will find that it is not a channel being dredged but a maneuvering basin adjacent to the existing Abbott Point Loading Dock so as it can be extended to take additional ships.
      The spoil as it is referred to is sand and silt of much the same make-up as what is at the intended disposal site.

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    9. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Jan Arens

      So does the government. Aren't they bringing in legislation to protect the minister for the environment from any consequences when things go pearshaped?

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    10. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Jan Arens

      Hi Jan, please be assured that the reef is not being carved up. While increased shipping heightens the risk of shipping incidents, there are extensive controls in place to minimise those risks. For example, commercial shipping in the Great Barrier Reef is confined to designated shipping areas. In some parts of the Marine Park, it is also compulsory for cruise ships and bulk carriers to use onboard marine pilots to guide vessels through the Reef.

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    11. Jan Arens

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Than you Russell, but I am not assured damage will not be an outcome. You promote the same fallacious logic that if it is x km away from clearly identifiable reef structures it has no impact on the world heritage property (carving effect). 3 million cubic meters of sediment disturbed and dumped within the marine park is inconsistent with preservation of the reef irrespective if you have pilots on boats or not. The bund wall in Gladstone had a condition that it was not to leak. It did and this was judged by the independent review of Gladstone harbour to not have been a breach because extensive controls were in place.

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    12. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to John Newton

      Hi John, GBRMPA was required to make a decision on the permit application before us (as submitted by NQBP) — this did not include a land-based option. The dredge material itself (which is sand, silt and clay) will come from the seafloor within Abbot Bay and will be moved 25km off Abbot Point to a site that has similar material to what is being relocated.

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    13. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Hi Russell

      Yes this is exactly the point - the process is to get to the best option for the Great Barrier Reef is fundamentally flawed and the decision at Abbot Point makes this clearly obvious. However there appears to be nothing happening to guarantee an improved process, as requested by UNESCO, in the immediate future.

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    14. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Hi Russell,

      I'm slowly getting a grip on what the GBRMPA was asked to do - or more precisely its delegated senior officer.

      The approved proposal did not contain a land disposal option so in essence the delegate was charged with attaching conditions to the dumping to minimise risk or impact. There was no capacity for the delegate to veto the proposal or to amend it in any way - such as by insisting on land based disposal. That right?

      To what extent is the delegate legally obliged to heed the scientific advice provided to him or her?

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    15. Michael Swifte

      writer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Excellent point Peter. Excellent!

      I would very much like to hear Russell's response. This is the sort of thing the pundits will appreciate given the profound lack of information and data during this tawdry process.

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    16. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Russell, many thanks for your reply, but i guess the question is – wht was there no land-based option?

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    17. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Hi Peter, as I mentioned earlier GBRMPA was required to make a decision on the permit application before us (as submitted by NQBP) — this did not include a land-based option. Our legislative powers enable us to reject or approve a permit application, or to approve it with conditions, as we have done in this case.

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    18. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Sorry got that confused ... trying to do too many things at once ... take 2:

      "So given the strength of the initial scientific advice can I ask why the delegate decided to approve the proposal as submitted rather than reject it with advice to the proponents to submit a proposal for a land-based disposal option?"

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    19. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Hullo Russell - are you really telling us that if an Applicant omits information that would result in a different outcome, the GBRMPA is not required to ask for the Application to be completed first?

      How can lack of information in the Application bind the GBRMPA (in any Decision) to a potentially bad outcome?

      In this case it's hardly a secret that land disposal is an alternative long practised by some other dredgers along the GBR coast.

      Maybe they didn't know that trick about omitting to mention it.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Chris Thaler

      There are always going to be costs to be considered for any economic activity Chris, not to mention keeping the sludge in coal trucks for something high in moisture can have a habit of leaking and also not to mention the corrosive nature of seawater; then as for rehabilitation, a good killer for any growth out of the sea is seawater because of the salt content.
      We would not want to be making ground waters contaminated with salt for environmentalists might have even greater concerns.
      All of those factors need to be carefully thought through.

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  3. John Crest

    logged in via email @live.com.au

    Talk about walking into the lion's den!

    Your article won't convert any views around here, but I laud your effort in trying.

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    1. Stephen Tafra

      Teacher

      In reply to John Crest

      John, you are accusing readers here of being close minded, perhaps you could contribute to the conversation instead. For example, could you comment on this:

      "Our recent assessments show the dominant risks to the health of the reef are the effects of climate change..."

      More coal = more CO2 = more climate change.

      So my question to you is, how can Abbott Point be anything but detrimental to the Reef?

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Stephen Tafra

      Could it be Stephen that we are seeing the results of climate change over hundreds and thousands of centuries in which coal has been burnt for very little of that time other than with natural burning, some of which is alleged to have been occurring for thousands of years and thus could have emitted far more CO2

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    3. John Crest

      logged in via email @live.com.au

      In reply to Stephen Tafra

      Happy to comment.

      The article is about WHERE the dumping should or can occur, not WHETHER it should happen or not.

      A dictionary will help you with the different meanings of WHERE and WHETHER.

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    4. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Greg North

      The straw man presented here disagrees with virtually all of the credible scientific evidence. Historical levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is really quite easy for scientists to determine. The record levels presently show that the hypothetical statement "could have emitted far more CO2" is false.

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    5. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to John Crest

      Actually John, I think this is a very good explanation of the works proposed and I for one am persuaded that it is unlikely to result in further deterioration of the reef.

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    6. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to John Crest

      Convenient, do not blame me i only sell the stuff?

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    7. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Others here oppose the dredging due to concerns about increased coal exports and the links to climate change. I share these concerns but this article is mainly about dredging and possible impacts on the reef.

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    8. Stephen Tafra

      Teacher

      In reply to Greg North

      According to 97% of scientists the answer is that CO2 levels are rising due to both natural and human causes. The latter is within our control.

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    9. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Stephen Tafra

      CO2 levels are rising to to human causes not natural, natural causes are fully compensated by the carbon cycle which now includes dealing with about 45% of our emissions as well

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    10. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to John Crest

      The basic assumption (of the article/argument) is that dumping HAS to occur and only the location is variable, whereas the responding argument is that the basic assumption is WRONG and that there is no need for dumping because the reason given for the dumping (expanding a coal port) is in direct conflict with the continued existence of the GBR. So 'whether' and 'where' need to be reasoned in that order, not the other way around!

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Amanda Barnes

      Hi Amanda, please be assured that absolutely no political pressures was brought to bear on GBRMPA. The documents referred to in today's media are internal, draft working documents. These were not submitted to the delegate for consideration (this refers to the senior manager responsible for the agency's decision). As such they do not represent the views of the agency.

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    2. Matthew T Davis

      Instructor

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Can you see, Russell how this undermines public confidence in the MPA's ability to protect the reef? If there was an opinion that the activity would have a negative impact and the people responsible for making the final decision never saw the documents. Can we be assured that they undertook due dilligence in making their decision?
      They do not represent the views of the agency because a certain senior manager chose to ignore or dismiss them? But they certainly represent the views of someone (an expert, if you will) within the GBRMPA organisation. Does that person still have a job?

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    3. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Matthew T Davis

      Hi Matthew, please be assured that the concerns of staff and stakeholders were not ignored. Indeed, it was these concerns that subsequently led GBRMPA to impose the strictest conditions it has ever placed on a project of this type. You can find out more about the conditions at: www.gbrmpa.gov.au/about-us/consultation/current-proposals-completed-assessment/abbot-point-capital-dredging-project/summary-of-conditions.

      In addition, the Federal Environment Minister, as part of his approval conditions for this development, required NQBP to identify alternative disposal sites within an identified investigation zone. We've indicated that we would support the use of a different site if it's found to be equal to or better in terms of environmental or heritage outcomes.

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    4. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Hello Russell,

      Can you disclose what the repercussions (if any are set out) of breaching these conditions might be? It is all well and good to have these conditions placed on the developers, but without adequate "incentive" to remain within them they may not provide much protection.

      I am very aware of companies that take the least intrusive and cost effective course and then write financial penalties off as the cost of doing business.

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    5. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Well, Russell, I'm one who is not persuaded by the decision-maker pleading to reassure me on questions of probity. I've read too many departmental (including GBRMPA) documents over the last 20 years to rest assured that political pressure and/or wishing to please the Minister does not occur.

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  4. Paul Dawkins

    logged in via Facebook

    My questions - The GBR Marine Park Authority initially recommended that dumping dredge spoil would harm the GBR, what changed your mind?

    Was it the 47 strict conditions?

    If so what is the potential that there is a lapse in one of these conditions and there is permanent damage to the reef?

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Paul Dawkins

      Hi Paul, you an find out more about the conditions we've put in place here: www.gbrmpa.gov.au/about-us/consultation/current-proposals-completed-assessment/abbot-point-capital-dredging-project/summary-of-conditions. As I mentioned in the article, there will a number of layers of independent scrutiny and reporting to ensure there is compliance with these conditions.

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    2. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Steven Fuller

      Hi Steven, in the case of Queensland Nickel, GBRMPA decided the best approach to securing a solution that would eliminate the potential hazard was to issue a warning to the company and work with them and the Queensland Government to explore engineering solutions. This involved significant engagement over many months. The effectiveness of this approach is demonstrated by the fact that there have not been, to our knowledge, unauthorised discharges since that time.

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    3. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Thank you for your reply Russell. That is good news and hopefully compliance continues, although my personal opinion is that will only be so long as it is in the company interest. They understand from experience there would be no penalty other than "warning". If the media I have been exposed to is to be believed, the company was well aware of its discharges and purposely did so to prevent possible worse contamination.

      Are you able to clarify what penalties may be imposed for breaches on this latest approval? You can surely understand the public concern that the "strict" conditions are perhaps too soft (in many eyes) and are not backed up with sufficient penalties or deterrent policy to prevent incidents? Merely speculating here, but I can imagine it would not be above many a company to willingly sustain a large fine if the cost of the sticking to the rules costs in excess of that.

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    4. Jan Arens

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Again, look at how well those layers of "independent" scrutiny affected water quality in Gladstone harbour.

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  5. Comment removed by moderator.

  6. Jeff Young

    logged in via email @bigpond.net.au

    The area set aside (its relative size) doesn't matter as much as what goes on within the area.

    Laboratory testing by which agency(ies)? Can we see the study(ies)? If rivers contain agricultural run-off, how can there not be chemicals - toxic or at least unfavourable to marine life? Carbon dioxide isn't necessarily toxic, it's the balance in the atmosphere we're worried about.

    Dredge disposal not new? So what? That doesn't mean we should keep doing it or even accelerate the process.

    Sorry…

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    1. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Jeff Young

      +1 And i do not think that sediment even needs to be toxic to be detrimental to the reef in any case

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  7. Brendan Hills

    logged in via Facebook

    An interesting article, and I appreciate all the links and references included that encourage an informed discussion.

    Can I suggest though that you update the standard disclosure statement at the top, as it is inaccurate in this case - and that somewhat undermines your attempt at improving the quality of the debate.

    As it stands, the statement reads:

    DISCLOSURE STATEMENT

    Russell Reichelt does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

    But as Russell Reichelt is the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority this is not correct.

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    1. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Brendan Hills

      Hi Brendan,

      Our disclosure questions are designed to catch anything you wouldn't otherwise know from the author's job title or profile. I oversaw this article and thought it was very clear what Russell's job was... But happy to be as transparent as possible, we've updated the disclosure to restate his job title.

      Thanks for your comment
      Liz

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  8. alex gartlan

    logged in via email @student.cqu.edu.au

    This morning 3.3.14 I heard in a news broadcast that information had been disclosed that the original intention of this Board of Management was to refuse to allow dumping. Why was there a change, what were the reasons, who was involved in this turn around, and finally is the matter of possible or potential conflict of interest being brought before the High Court in the same mooted action? There is something rotten in all of this.

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    1. Peter Banks

      retired Civil Engineer

      In reply to alex gartlan

      Whilst not agreeing with the final decision of the GBRMPA, I feel that this talk of a change from an 'original intention' to not allow dumping is a direct attack on the freedom of the Authority to properly assess the situation.

      The 'original intention' was in a draft permit assessment written some four to five months before the final approval. A draft is for review, otherwise why write it. And review means refinement, and often change, to the draft recommendations. Such is normal process and is to be expected of a competent body.

      If the Authority must, as people seem to be arguing, stick to their initial position and not change it, then there would be no reason to carry out any analyses of possibilities.

      There may be something rotten as you say Alex, but crying foul just because a document has gone through a review process before a final decision is made gets us nowhere.

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    2. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to alex gartlan

      Hi Alex, the documents referred to in the media were preliminary working drafts which were not submitted for consideration to the delegate (the senior manager with responsibility for making the decision). As such, they do not represent the views of the agency. Decisions relating to project and development approvals are not made by the board. In terms of the conflict-of-interest allegations that were aired in the media last year, an independent inquiry by a legal expert recently found the allegations to be unfounded.

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    3. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      I am wondering if the GBRMPA has become unintentionally caught up in something far bigger than itself.

      The profitability of this whole project may depend on tariffs in India, and the granting of higher tariffs to companies such as Adani is now coming under question.

      http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/energy/power/state-utilities-upset-by-recent-cerc-orders-in-favour-of-adani-power-and-tata-power/articleshow/31303355.cms

      Add this to the way coal blocks are granted in India, and the word “irregularities” seems to keep reoccurring.

      http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/editorial/no-mass-cancelling-of-coal-blocks-please/articleshow/28857043.cms

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  9. Les McNamara

    logged in via Facebook

    "In addition, testing by accredited laboratories shows the material is not toxic, and is therefore suitable for ocean disposal." It's ironic that this is the same argument that climate change contrarians use to claim that CO2 emissions are not a problem. Next we'll be told that silt is good for the reef because it's a fertiliser.

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    1. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Les McNamara

      They have been saying the spoils at Gladstone were not toxic or contaminated either. Even if moderately contaminated in large volumes and over the guidelines in other areas, it can be averaged out to look ok. So then it becomes a matter of how fast you suspend a certain volume of which and for how long. This project won't be for long, maybe 8 or so weeks, so it will be fast.

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  10. Terry Mills

    lawyer retired

    I understand the need to dredge but, in places like Singapore and the UAE and probably elsewhere dredge spoil is a valued commodity used for land reclamation.

    We have evidently dismissed this alternative and classed the dredged material as waste.

    Perhaps it's just cheaper to dump it at sea.

    What are the economics and what are the advantages to our environment of dumping at sea as opposed to on land reclamation ?

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Terry Mills

      Of course there are economics involved with any type of activities along with the environmental aspects of sensitive wetland areas adjacent to the Abbott Point area.
      Singapore can do with some reclammation if you did not know whereas the UAE are building their fancy resort islands with all those petro $$$$

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  11. Nick Kermode

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    "We are living in an interminable succession of absurdities imposed by the myopic logic of short-term thinking"

    Jacques Cousteau

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    1. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to John Chapman

      John, could you please update your profile to use a full name? We require that under our community standards; without it we need to lock your account.

      Thanks, all the best - Liz

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  12. harry oblong

    tree surgeon

    "Instead, we are looking at an area within the Marine Park that is about 25 kilometres east-northeast of the port at Abbot Point, and about 40 kilometres from the nearest offshore reef"
    what about inshore reefs ?.....are there any, and what distance are they from the dump zone ?

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    1. Jon Brodie

      Research scientist

      In reply to harry oblong

      There are closer reefs but the main issue is that there are other important things near there besides coral reefs - seagrass, fish, dugongs, turtles etc. Also the dredging and spoil plumes move large distances to where the reefs actually are.

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    2. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to harry oblong

      Reefs, shoals, soft corals, many thousands of hectares of seagrass beds- deep water and shallow. Two dugong protection zones one south at Edcombe bay and one to the north, 5 species of turtles, dolphin, migratory route for humpbacks. Holbourne island and Nares rock is within 10ks and has corals. Upstart to the North. Marine protection zones at Alva. it has it all, bar the dumpsite itself but it is not dumping bricks. If only we had some underwater video of what happens at both the dredge area with dredge running in overflow mode and at the dump site when the bottom of the hopper is released.

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    3. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to harry oblong

      Hullo Harry

      Many inshore reefs have already suffered from various land-based inputs - and dredging and seadumping - eg Cleveland Bay and the Port of Townsville, which is another port cited for expansion. I'm not fully up to date on these, but there used to be corals on Magnetic Island which have died (and are unrecoverable) from the impacts of dredging. Others went (irretrievably) during the construction of a very ugly ferry terminal and marina on Nelly Bay.

      The reference to the GBRWHA…

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  13. Liz Aird

    Retired public servant

    I believe that the decision reversed one not allowing the the dumping of waste some which was made several months before.
    Is this correct and, if so, why?

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  14. Thomas Bailey

    freelance writer

    I think my major question, Mr Reichelt, is: Why dump anything in the reef at all? If even there's a tiny chance of silt floating about and disturbing the amount of light that reaches the coral (because silt, once disturbed, can drift quite a distance), then why dump in the water at all? Why can't the sand/silt detritus just be dumped on land? That's what I'd like to know.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Thomas Bailey

      Thomas, nothing is being dumped in the reef and as for what is floating about, the material to be dumped 40 km. from the offshore reef is already on the sea bed.
      If you have ever been down to the sea on a stormy day or particularly for northern Queensland after a cyclone has passed by or crossed over the coast, you will find the sea water is far from a beautiful aquamarine blue and clear.
      It will be murky, often for as far as the eye can see and the blue of ocean water further to see is usually more a reflection of the blue sky than the sea water itself.
      Have a look at the waves at any time and check out how much sand gets moved about.

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    2. Peter Banks

      retired Civil Engineer

      In reply to Greg North

      Yes Greg, nature does stir things up a bit at times, so why not join in the fun and stir it up even more. We'll only be damaging the reef in the same way nature does so it can't be bad, can it?

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    3. andy good

      business manager and consultant

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, I am sure you did not mean to be patronising, but it would be helpful to understand if, as a retired engineer you know of any studies that have been done on dredge silt relocation in the Park? You would be making a strong contribution to the debate if you would share it. Given that no authority has cited such it can be little surprise that the entrenched positions prior to the announcement are only deeper now.

      Equally, I m sure Marine Scientists participating will be able to quote what the average (and extremes) of silt deposition are from such weather events. I have certainly read that some are extreme and silt damage can be measured for several years before regrowth starts to mend.

      If readers have this kind of information it is possible to move beyond the opinion that so often polarises this forum.

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    4. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Thomas Bailey

      Hi Thomas, as I mentioned in my article placing dredge material on land remains our preferred choice, providing it doesn't transfer environmental impact to sensitive environments connected to the reef ecosystem. The salt and liquid content of the dredge spoil is such that the land would not be able to be used for many years.

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    5. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Now did the delegate actually state that "preference" in attaching these conditions Russell ... that the GBRMPA would "prefer" land based disposal? That would seem to be exceeding the Authority's ambit.

      As to the subsequent issue of the time taken for the land so despoiled to become arable - that is well outside of your mandate and is simply a cost of protecting the reef - in essence an economic not a scientific rationale.

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    6. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Note the best option for the GBR in all ways is the longer jetty. Land disposal has many problems and, while probably better for the GBR than the current dumping option, is still problematic. The other option of using a small reclamation area to put the spoil behind was not considered properly in the official analysis of options.

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    7. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Greg North

      40ks from "Offshore reefs" nice choice of words, It is duly noted that no longer is it 40ks from reefs anymore, because people had picked up on the misrepresentation. and "sand"again? I am pretty sure we have gone from just sand, to 70 percent sand, not to 40 percent silts and clays.. oh lord. How are those seagrass beds going from the last time a cyclone passed again? They don't tend to do so well when the light levels are reduced ( yes dredge turbidity will reduce the light but also the useable spectrums) let alone being smothered.

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    8. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to andy good

      You can check out the seagrass baseline surveys author rasheed among others. it is interesting how much seagrass this area can hold when it is doing well. Right now it is not so great and they basically warn against dredging over successive years. So the outlook is not good, but they will be able to claim how it just never came back well from that dirty water from the floods four years ago.. and then another might come and this my friend is how we are losing very large areas of seagrass each year and also why the numbers of already endangered species are dropping as well.

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  15. Suzanne Arnold

    Co-ordinator

    Really Russell, you're glossing over of the important facts is of concern. No offset plan by the proponent; the proponent selects and funds the Dredge panel and the Ecosystem Research Monitoring Program ( shades of Gladstone ) and the Authority has incorporated the useless and very concerning recommendations from the Gladstone " Independent Review Panel" which managed to ignore the leaking bund and the substantive facts. Neither the Dredge Panel or the Ecosystem Research Panel functioned at Gladstone and without INDEPENDENT scientists, NGOs and a TRANSPARENT FUNCTION your assurances are not worth the paper they're written on.

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    1. Tom Colley

      PhD Candidate, University of Western Sydney

      In reply to Russell Warman

      I support Russell Warman's comments about climate change being the "elephant in the room" with regard to the GBRMPA's approval of the dredging. Clearly the Authority has deemed that it must approve the dredging, even though it is part of the scaling up of coal exploitation and climate change that directly threatens the Reef. Clearly, they do so because their role, as specified by legislation or policy, prevents them from considering this critical factor in their decision.

      I presume this is a…

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  16. harry oblong

    tree surgeon

    “unacceptable social and environmental risk”, they said first and now we see that greg hunt if giving himself immunity from legal challenges on his decisions as environment minister ! .
    why did the first findings say that, and why is Hunt covering his arse ?

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    1. Craig Myatt

      Industrial Designer / R&D

      In reply to harry oblong

      Maybe some lawyer can challenge the immunity, so we can have the ability to have judicial review, and so as the High Court said in

      "Judicial review is neither more nor less than the enforcement of the rule of law over executive action…"

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    2. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to harry oblong

      Greg Hunt should be worried whether the law will be able to protect him from the masses rather than being held to account by the law. If the reef is degraded I doubt if anything will save him.

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    3. harry oblong

      tree surgeon

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      i am sure the reef will take comfort in another corrupt pollie being forced onto their well paid pension a few years early.........

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  17. john byatt

    retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

    "Claiming to 'offset' the 3 million tonnes of dredged sediment by catchment work is the wrong approach and very unlikely to be possible with the limitations of budget and workforce,"

    "We need to avoid creating this dredged sediment in the first place, whilst also working within the catchments to reduce run off."

    200 scientists oppose dredging

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    1. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to john byatt

      Agreed John, glad you raised it, (1) that argument was a pathetic attempt to mislead the public into thinking there was an equivalence between dredge spoil and agricultural run-off; and (2) by offering a false dichotomy hoped to persuade that a forced choice of two bad things would distract from choosing a third, good, alternative.

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  18. Chris Ennor

    Retired

    A few weeks ago I saw an Interview, on the ABC, with the CEO of the Company running the project. In answer to the question "Did the original and approved proposal include dumping the spoil on the land?" He said " Yes, but we now find that it is more efficient and economical to dispose of it at sea."
    My second point in "He who pays the Piper calls the tune." Who appoints/ pays the GBMPA?

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Tim Ramacciotti

      Tim, if you go scuba diving across the arid sea desert of where dumping is proposed to occur, please take a heap of tanks with you if you want to make it out to the reefs.

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    2. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Greg North

      Arid sea desert? in the middle of an Oasis? I thought i saw the pictures from the dump area, soft corals, nudibranchs, mud clams.. Anyways are you a tide, current or wave engineer? What have you go in mind to stop these things, like the sediments include fine fractions you know, being displaced from the dump zone under the higher density of the sand portion or having bed sheer forces increased by larger waves and you know..being taken along on tides after being suspended in the water column, as it does and then blocking light and settling out somewhere else. You can pretty much be sure that around 500,000 cubic metres of non sand will be moving about all over the place. Also last time i looked, the dump site in question is not even a sure thing. Another option is to be looked at, that may be more environmentally suitable.

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    3. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, you'd be wiser to find out a bit more about the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA) and what is in it. Only some of it is coral.

      You might be quite astonished if a benthic scientist (or enthusiast) were to explain what is in and under the "desert" you refer to. All these organisms will die at once when dumped upon.

      In any case, few deserts are lifeless.

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  19. David Camfield

    Researcher at School of Psychology, University of Wollongong

    The real issue here, as reported in the guardian us, is that GBRMP despite serious reservations had little option but to approve the development.. this article tries to put a positive spin on it, but no matter what the safe gaurds the principle of approving this is 100% wrong

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    1. Craig Myatt

      Industrial Designer / R&D

      In reply to David Camfield

      Perhaps the author has played the devil's advocate to the mining interests, so to speak, in that while he appears to be the driver of this, perhaps he was silently hoping for a strong reaction against the dumping near the reef...to hammer the point to the rest of the board that this is really not the policy choice of the electors of Australia, but a very small number of vested interests, who might never be electors in their current form.

      You can see under section 7 & 24 of the federal Constitution who has the electoral and ultimate power in Australia, and I am fairly sure it is restricted to real persons, not corporations.

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  20. Account Deleted

    logged in via email @drdrb.net

    What is the GBRMPA doing to respond to the concerns about the project expressed by the World Heritage Committee?

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  21. Ben Heard

    Director, ThinkClimate Consulting

    Thanks for the article. I have scanned the comments and share a deep conviction that in the bigger picture these developments should be curtailed as we need to constrain coal, not expand it, if we are serious about protecting the reef. I can't imagine such considerations were ever going to be within the remit of the Authority to make a decision on. That's essential devolving national economic policy to a specific regulatory body. I am also interested to know about the apparent reversal of the Authority's…

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    1. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Ben Heard

      Hullo Ben
      Once again, the GBRWHA is not just the coral. It is one ecosystem. What happens on the coast and between the coast and the outer coral reefs matters. The coastal and island fringing corals matter too. Oceanographical studies have advanced in relatively recent years to show that the finest particles of coastal sediments reach the outer reefs, carrying metals and other pollutants with them, to be ingested by coral polyps. Heavier sediments have been part of the cause of the great loss of seagrass on which dugongs (now greatly reduced in number) are totally dependent.

      These things were not known at the time the GBRWHA was inscribed on the world heritage list (1981). Dredging had already been a feature of the Queensland coast for a long time.

      That's why dumping in the GBRWHA is wrong: in time, it will affect all parts of it.

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  22. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    Thanks for this article, Professor Reichelt.

    Can you comment on the likelihood or otherwise that Crown of Thorns starfish larvae will feast on the resuspended fines from this spoil-dumping process, and then get dispersed over large parts of the GBR thus exacerbating coral loss?

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    1. Rebecca Diete

      PhD Candidate at School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, University of Queensland

      In reply to Kathryn Burns

      Thank you for the comment Kathryn. I was hoping that someone with good scientific knowledge of the situation would offer some insight. I feel this article clearly lacks reference to the science concerning this management decision. As someone has commented above, they can put all the "conditions" they want onto a project like this, but if they get it wrong, the response and mitigation could be no more than a band aid solution at best. I find the wording of many of the imposed conditions too arbitrary…

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    2. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Kathryn Burns

      Kathryn, you are right to identify coal dust as a major problem with coal ports. Anyone living near one ends up with dust all over their cars, washing and houses. Much of this dust blows out to sea and settles over a wide area. Some of it will have been deposited in the spoil that will be moved by dredging.
      But to be realistic, mining is going to be around for a while yet and should our attention be more on reducing coal dust. It is a long term 24/7 problem that can be greatly reduced with money.

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    3. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Hullo Steve
      It is apparently no trouble for the Townsville sugar loader to be completely enclosed; why not the coal?

      And you might be right - we might be stuck with mining risks for a long time - isn't that a potent reason for doing it better?

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  23. Mark Enders

    logged in via Twitter

    I'm interested in the use of the term stringent conditions. Conditions 1-7 are hardly stringent, they cover requirements such as having to keep paperwork on site, having to sign the agreement and return it within a specific time frame, having to inform contractors of their duties, etc. Conditions 8-14 again cover conditions such as which months dredging can occur, whether the company holds permits, the fact that they are monitoring their activities- I'd call these standard rather than stringent…

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  24. Mary Delaney

    data entry

    All I hear when reading this article are the same kinds of empty reassurances one gets with any environmentally delicate development/works. You can put all these safeguards in place but if the person in charge of works on the day decides to take a risk as they often do (ie the Gulf of Mexico), all the intended safeguards are just hot air. The dredging material may not be being "dumped on the reef" but it is still being dumped in the marine park. The author speaks of past activity along the coast. Sorry but past wrongs do not justify present wrongs. This area is marine park for a reason. I'm afraid that there is no justifying this decision. This action is a step backwards when the future should be more conservation not less.

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    1. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Mary Delaney

      Hullo Mary

      And the Marine Park (actually, a slightly larger area) is also a World Heritage Area.

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  25. Ben Marshall
    Ben Marshall is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Writer

    I know this is going to be a fast and furious comments section but however people view the contents of Russell's overview, I am in full agreement with his final paragraphs.

    In fact I think it's the most crucial thing to consider here, and he's dead right to point it out - there should be a Queensland-wide plan on coastal development and the environment and there isn't one.

    This is where commenters on both sides should come together. Letting the miners and their proxies in Federal and State governments do their bidding on an ad hoc basis isn't good enough for anyone except the miners. And they'll be here today, gone tomorrow. Will the Reef?

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    1. Jan Arens

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Ben, I could not agree more with you for a need to curtail the authority's cosy relationship with the miners and their proxies. Just because we have no effective mechanism in place to do so now, does not excuse the GBRMPA from exercising its purpose, that is to protect the world heritage property.

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    2. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Ben Marshall

      Hullo Ben

      There was a statutory Queensland Coastal Plan and statutory Regional Coastal Management Plans (RCMPS) under the Coastal Protection and Management Act Qld; based on a 1996 agreement and Statement of Reasons associated with a decision made by the Cth Environment Minister under the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act (Cth) (now repealed). The RCMPs were of variable quality, but particularly in the north were capable of prohibiting many damaging coastal developments.

      In August…

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  26. Rob Rich

    logged in via Facebook

    There are some major issues with the article
    1. if 1.3million tons of dredge material is going to be dumped/year and there is 40% silt that would make 520,000 tons of silt that will be dumped in 4km sacrifice zone, only when there are no tides - when are there no tides on the GBR?
    Also if there are 300million tons to be dredged but the cap per year is 1.3million tons isn't that going to mean dredging will continue for 230 years?
    2. Having regulation is fine however it is quite apparent that companies…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Rob Rich

      Rob, it is 3 million cubic meters as well 1,3M cubic metres/y and you create your own problem by jumping to 300 million tons.

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    2. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Rob Rich

      Hi Rob, to clarify....a limit of 1.3 million cubic metres of capital dredge material can be disposed of in any one calendar year. The total over the life of the project will be 3 million cubic metres.

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  27. Ken Alderton

    PhD student, former CEO

    I note that there is nothing in the Permit to dump the spoil that defines the minimum quality of the material to be dumped. The Abbott Point coal loading terminal consists of an offsohre loading point linked by open conveyor belt to storage areas surrounded on two sides by water. Over the 30 years the Port has been in operation this configuration would allow considerable amount of fine coal would have found its way into the silt.
    If silt contaminated with coal fines is allowed to be taken to other parts of the Park the adverse effects, would be at best, be unpredictable. Although coal is not very soluble in water, some of the more volatile constituents will be leached out over time. It is not a world away from having silt contaminated with heavy fuel oil,

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      You are certainly making a few assumptions there Ken which ought really need to be backed up by evidence or otherwise you are just being as inflammatory as coal dust is.
      You could of course investigate existing monitoring of dredging activities to see if there ought to be any real concern in what you claim.

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    2. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      I am making assumptions based on my experience with the coal loading terminal at Port Waratah and similar configurations handling materials as dense as alumina in places as diverse as Tiwi Point in New Zealand and Port Jebel Ali in Dubai. In all cases testing of the silt around the conveyor belts and storage dumps for coal (alumina is stored in silos) showed considerable fine material in the silt even after relatively periods of operation.
      What are your credentials for deciding that these "assumptions" are inflammatory.?
      It is not my job to investigate the quality of the silts but it is certainly the job of the Marine Park Authority.

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Coal dust if not other materials has a habit of floating Ken and where I say you are making assumptions is that you assume there has been no testing nor monitoring of sea water and sea bottom.

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    4. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      Again you are wrong. Coal dust once wetted out sinks. It has an SG of 1.2 -1.4. Coal fines wet out pretty quickly. Hence the use of fine water spray on coal dumps to prevent spontaneous combustion.
      You are being deceitful when you claim that "where I say you are making assumptions is that you assume there has been no testing nor monitoring of sea water and sea bottom." Neither testing nor monitoring the sea bottom was mentioned in either my comment or yours.
      Again I ask, what are the credentials that back your assertions on the behaviour of coal dust or bulk coal handling?

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    5. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Greg North

      If coal dust is known for floating (presumably the finer particles) these will be carried even further in the water column, reaching the outer reefs eventually. I think I've seen some modelling on this very point.

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  28. Marcus Anderson

    logged in via email @marcusanderson.com.au

    In reply to Craig Myatt

    The first problem with this article is the Disclosure.

    "Russell Reichelt does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.". Clearly, that statement is both false and misleading as Russell works for the Marine Authority responsible for the decision to dump.

    Given that The Conversation is ignoring that whopping lie, what other academic fraud is going on here?

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    1. Craig Myatt

      Industrial Designer / R&D

      In reply to Marcus Anderson

      My point was that that inconsistency is nothing compared to genuine non-arms length conflicts of interest that might in fact be implicit or even explicit in the make up of the board. I thought the author might get the benefit of the doubt from me (for his disclosure) if his unstated aim in writing the pieces was to elicit the conflicting discussions as we see here...although point taken on his disclosure.

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  29. Janeen Harris

    chef

    This article can be summed up in just a few words. She'll be right, mate.

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    1. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Don't you worry about that!

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      No worries then Janeen, " be Happy don't worry "

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  30. Michael Hooper

    Research Fellow at UNSW Australia

    Quick question: '60% sand and 40% silt and clay'. Is there anything living in this clay and silt (Merchant-of-Venice style)?

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Michael Hooper

      Yes, there are organisms that live in the sediment. Previous disposal operations have indicated the population of these organisms recovers within a short timeframe.

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  31. Hugo Freeman

    Student

    I think Russel needs to revise his disclosure statement

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    1. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Hugo Freeman

      Hi Huge

      Our disclosure questions are designed to catch anything you wouldn't otherwise know from the author's job title or profile. I oversaw this article and thought it was very clear what Russell's job was... But happy to be as transparent as possible, we've updated the disclosure to restate his job title.

      Hope that clears this up now.

      All the best, Liz

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    2. Hugo Freeman

      Student

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Hi Liz,

      Considering the obviously defensive and not so critical tone of the article I think it is necessary to point out the financial (I'm assuming he is paid in his position) ties between himself and the organisation.

      P.s. I haven't been called 'Huge' since high school; oddly refreshing

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    3. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Hugo Freeman

      his disclosure statement is in accord with the facts, please no conspiracy theory here, read his linkedin

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    4. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Hugo Freeman

      I don't often write LOL, but I am...

      That's what happens when you reply on the run when you're racing to a meeting. Take it as a compliment ;)

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    5. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Thanks Peter. It's a really contentious but also really important debate. Am really happy to see so many people getting the chance to have their say directly with GBRMPA, especially now that Russell/GBRMPA is able to jump in and answer some of the questions (after some very annoying IT problems earlier!).

      Hopefully people make the most of the chance to have that conversation with them. It's much more direct than sending an email or writing a public submission, because you know people at GBRMPA…

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    6. Martin Wesley-Smith

      snark-hunter

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      The professor writes: "If you still have questions at the end of this article, I and others from our team at the Authority will ... do our best to reply ..." It would have been helpful, Liz, if you'd banned interruptions from people like Mr. North so that there could have been a clear dialogue between questioners, on the one hand, and the Authority, on the other. The mess we now have is so voluminous and muddled that few, surely, have the time and patience to wade through it and decipher it.

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    7. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Martin Wesley-Smith

      Just saw this Martin. If you're concerned about any specific comments, you can report them as abuse, off topic etc.

      And if you're looking for answers from Russell Reichelt, I did put a note on at the end of the article (and in the comments somewhere too) suggesting a fast way to find his comments in among all the comments/questions.

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  32. Alan Fien

    Engineer

    Professor Reichert's article is too qualitative for what is a quantitative problem. He states:

    "The material itself in Abbot Bay is about 60% sand and 40% silt and clay, which is similar to what you would see if you dug up the site where the material is to be relocated.

    In addition, testing by accredited laboratories shows the material is not toxic, and is therefore suitable for ocean disposal."

    The question is: how much of the material was sampled? How many test borings were made, and how deep did they go? How much sorting takes place in dropping through a water column - the heavier sand dropping rapidly and the fine clay particles remaining suspended to produce a large plume? If no significant plume is predicted, is it a condition that dumping will stop immediately if one is detected?As far as the dumping site is concerned, have there been any test borings to confirm the assertion tha the seabed is "similar" to the material for dumping?

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    1. andy good

      business manager and consultant

      In reply to Alan Fien

      Alan, you are really getting to the heart of this matter as far I have seen it.

      There is little or no evidence of the type you cite in the public domain. Given the entrenched positions prior to the decision the outraged outcome has been entirely predictable.

      Even if the Authority was dragged kicking and screaming to this position, there is no evidence. There is no sense that we should trust their stewardship.

      With this government bent on giving 'the greens' a public kicking (great role model) I expected no other decision from Hunt but from the Authority???

      And if a calamity happened that some institution other than the Australian people would be liable for restitution

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    2. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Alan Fien

      Hi Alan - yes, the sampling and the boring was completed in accordance with the Australian Government's National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging 2009 which meets the requirements of the London Protocol.

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    3. Alan Fien

      Engineer

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Hello Professor Reichelt: The National Assessment Guidelines are only very broad, and of particular concern are the multiple possibilities of exemption from some provisions.

      Has the document which purports to show compliance with the Guidelines and contains details of sampling and other evidence relied on been published, and if not will you do so?

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    4. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Alan Fien

      They will use a TSHD dredge, it seems the bigger one will be used to make it fit the window period more easily. The TSHD has a cutter head on the bottom which sweeps along, cutting. This is sucked up into the hopper/hull. It must run on overflow mode to be efficient. This means that the water sucked up the pipe is mixed with the sediments, thereby breaking up much of the clay layers.
      This mixes with silts and water and exits the dredge.
      Falls into the water and creates a plume running with the…

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    5. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      and these need fixing up Russel, at least for future projects. There are no guidelines for nutrient and some metals also have none, e.g. manganese. Note the words in the NADG 2009 to the effect that care needs to be taken around sensitive values and pristine waters. I should suspect that nutrient and algae blooms should be covered by the water guidelines as used by the GBRMPA and I note that the nutrient guidelines WILL be exceeded ( this is known already) and also that the turbidity guidelines will be exceeded many times and also for tens of kilometres ( this is known already also).

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    6. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Alan Fien

      Alan, keep an eye on the actual site water monitoring as it plays out. Many of the triggers for the GBRMPA for clean waters will be broken and they know it before they agreed to approve it.

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    7. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Hullo Russell

      Are the Australian Government's National Assessment Guidelines for Dredging 2009 and the London Protocol relevant to a world heritage marine park listed for its natural values? .

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  33. Nick Hill

    logged in via Facebook

    Russell,

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272771414000225

    How do you address the claims within this article that the conditions outlined within the plan are unrealistic to maintain and that mitigation and offsetting of this dumping is unattainable through reducing agricultural run-off? Furthermore, it seems as if the funding provided is minute in comparison to the amount required to reduce the amount of sediment currently stated to be offset in alternative projects.

    Lastly, considering the knowledge possessed within GBRMPA's researchers and consultants; how is it that conditions of dumping sediment >40km from fragile habitat and in certain seasons do anything to reduce the impact of increased sediment load on the GBRWHA? This is occurring with full knowledge of the impacts of sedimentation on these fragile habitats and the extent that sediment travels within the lagoon.

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Nick Hill

      The main issues with dredged sediments are whether they smother sensitive habitats like corals or seagrasses, and whether drifting fine sediments move away from the site. The total sediment load is not affected by dredge dispossal, however all sediments are affected to some degree by trade winds and severe storms.

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    2. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to Nick Hill

      The main impact of sediment delivery from agriculture and also sediment delivery from spoil dumping and dredging is increased turbidity and sedimentation. Increased turbidity reduces light on which seagrass and corals depend to photosynthesise their food. The damaging effects are independent of whether the suspended sediment comes from dredge spoil or river discharge as the fine sediments are resuspended through the year causing long-term increases of turbidity in the coastal waters of the central GBR e.g. Cleveland Bay near Townsville. Dredging and spoil dumping provide sediment which generally will be equally damaging as any sediment that comes down rivers enhanced by agricultural activities in the catchment.

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    3. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Russell - so why add to the naturally existing impacts by digging them up and then dumping them in the water column?

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  34. Simon Mould

    Environmental Science Student

    "The material itself in Abbot Bay is about 60% sand and 40% silt and clay, which is similar to what you would see if you dug up the site where the material is to be relocated."
    - The difference being that these sediments would not otherwise be disturbed. Disturbance of these sediments could release fine material into the water column to be transported by currents over long distances, depositing far from the target site. What measures are being taken to ensure that dredging spoil settles in place? Is that even possible?

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    1. In reply to john byatt

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Be on-topic
      Keep comments relevant to the article and replies relevant to the initiating post. We reserve the right to delete off-topic comments to keep threads on track.

      Brandon, sorry but this thread has gone way off topic. We've been letting it go because you, Amanda and others were having a nice, civil chat, but for anyone searching these comments for replies about the GBR, going off into much broader discussions about peak debt + posting multiple links to non-related videos makes it harder…

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    3. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Amanda Barnes

      Amanda, as I've said to Brandon below – this thread really has gone *way* off topic, was quietly letting it go since you were all being so polite and chatting away nicely. But the reason we do have to keep things on topic is because if other readers are scrolling through the comments looking for Russell Reichelt's replies (they might be v keen to hear a response on lots of the issues other readers asked about), having a mega, mostly off-topic thread like this just makes it too hard and they give…

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    4. Martin Wesley-Smith

      snark-hunter

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Why delete a developing, interesting, intelligent discussion by Amanda, Brandon, Julie, Peter et al yet retain cheap reflexive comments by trolls like Greg North? His comments are also off-topic in the sense that this was meant to be, I thought, a question-and-answer between readers and the professor, not a chance for ideologues to get in the way.

      You write: "for anyone searching these comments for replies about the GBR, going off into much broader discussions … makes it harder for other readers…

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    5. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      But why delete comments like this? Perfect relevant, I would have thought:

      In the interest of being constructive, one possible approach to protecting the reef is to make sure that any significant damage is borne as an ongoing financial cost to the profit seeking corporation, rather than being just a potential cost for the public and the environment. (For example, a share of revenue to be set aside in a pool to address environmental damage, and deferred for a time frame that allows outcomes to be measured.)

      This way, the very funding for each project would be subject to the calculation of the cost of that risk, and the potential economic outcomes would depend very much on the potential environmental outcomes. If no adverse outcomes, the corporations can service the debt.

      But as it is, with the profit being private, and the risk being public, catastrophic failure is not even a consideration of finance, and the corporations are free, if not compelled, to take that risk.

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    6. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      ... and the next two posts that followed, one a direct response from Peter, and then another challenge from me - all on the context for the protection of the reef from corporate exploitation ... not relevant ... or something else?

      I am sure that all of us in this discussion, and lurkers, love and respect The Conversation, but the logic given here just doesn't add up in my mind.

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    7. Amanda Barnes
      Amanda Barnes is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Voter

      In reply to Martin Wesley-Smith

      Thanks Martin,

      One possible solution Liz could be to confine ongoing conversations that meander some way from the topic to be placed at the bottom of the Conversation page. That way, if people want to ignore that particular line of commentary, then they just stop at the end of the 'on point' discussions. I guess it would be a bit of a pain for the administration but certainly rewarding for those wishing to discuss the broader context. Food for thought.

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    8. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Amanda Barnes

      Or is it that all broader context shall always be redacted?

      The potential solution I have proposed needs to be discussed in the broader context of what political and economic changes are needed to allow projects such as dredging near the reef to be subject to such controls.

      Much of our discussion here, with plenty of exceptions too, was about exactly that.

      Is that outside our terms of reference here?

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    9. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Hi Liz. I guess I should ask you directly, because I expect a response.

      The potential solution I have proposed needs to be discussed in the broader context of what political and economic changes are needed to allow projects such as dredging near the reef to be subject to such controls.

      Much of our discussion here, with plenty of exceptions too, was about exactly that.

      Is that outside our terms of reference here? Is all future discussion that zooms out from the context of the article, and questions the underlying economic or political systems, going to be redacted?

      I certainly need to know where the boundaries are, and at the moment, I can't see them.

      Thanks

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    10. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Martin Wesley-Smith

      Hi Martin and Brandon,

      This article alone has 572 comments; across the site every day, we get thousands, sometimes tens of thousands... So I'm sure you can understand that I haven't read every comment from everyone. But if you've got a specific concern about a comment from someone else, you can report it so our moderator Cory or I or others see it and come and read it in context.

      It's one thing to have a short thread of slightly off-topic content – but I was scrolling down and down and down…

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    11. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Liz. Thank you.

      But with respect, this was all but a dead thread, and the conversation was doing no one any harm.

      The argument I am making for defending the reef depends on taking a systems approach to economics. Unfortunately, there are no resources I have found that I can link to that give a background description of exactly what that means.

      That is exactly what this archive thread would have become - a reference for comments in future threads to simply point back to, without having to…

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    12. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      So, no direct or credible response? Is it fairer to read this as a complete lack of respect for my concerns, or as a political decision at some level, either within The Conversation, or the arrangement with GBRMPA, or something beyond, that you cannot or will not admit? If I don't know who, or what, I have violated, then I have not only lost three weeks of rare public engagement on the one issue that I see as *the* agenda for society, I also have no way of knowing how to proceed.

      You said you let the discussion continue, so why not, at the point you decided it was going too far off track, simply say so? Why redact it all, including the directly relevant parts?

      This thread is clearly dead, so what has been gained? No, I simply can not fathom this. Please Liz, shed a little more light.

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    13. Martin Wesley-Smith

      snark-hunter

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Liz: I agree with Brandon. As he says, it was a dead thread, so no-one would have been put out. And while some of what has been deleted drifted away from the topic, other posts, also deleted, were directly relevant. We have lost an important discussion.

      Why, if you were in delete mode, did you not also delete the trolls' comments that got between genuine questions and Prof Reichelt's replies? Why the double standard? I ask again: where is the deleted stuff? Can it be put somewhere else so that we can read it?

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    14. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Hi Brandon,

      I did respond at length yesterday, and then had to go back to all my other jobs, so after a long day I didn't get a chance to reply again. We do have to oversee a lot of stories; I've just been moderating abuse on another article, also in line with our Community Standards. And after replying to this again, I will have to get back to editing and commissioning again.

      But you've raised a very serious concern, so I will answer it.

      Was removing this long thread due to "a political…

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    15. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Martin Wesley-Smith

      Thanks Martin. I guess we will have to live with that response, and decide our own values of certainty on the plausible deniability. I suspect the best result would have been a compromise, but selecting which of the comments in a long sub-thread were relevant enough would really take some time.

      If it is the systems approach to economics you are interested in, the first half of the argument can be found on this thread in the discussion between me, Greg Wood and James Hill. https://theconversation.com/no-sacred-cows-productivity-commission-targets-toyota-22647#comments

      There are some links to some interesting resources there too. It is a pity you can't see the great discussion that developed here.

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    16. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Liz, Please clarify these two questions:

      Do you consider the content you deleted to be inappropriate in any way? You have said that it was generally out of context, although that could be debated under the existing rules, but you did not make it clear whether the very same content appearing in a different context would also be deleted.

      Did anyone ask you to the remove the content, or ask you to review the content to determine if it was appropriate?

      Thanks. I am sure you can appreciate why specific answers on these serious questions are important.

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    17. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Was my argument deliberately removed from the public domain, and was this a decision made by you alone, or were others involved in any discussions or procedures?

      The explanation already provided is plausible, but only with direct answers to these serious questions.

      So Liz, or any other employee at The Conversation reading this, please provide them. My distress is accumulating without them.

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    18. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Brandon Young

      Hi Brandon,

      This is going to have to be my last response, as I have responded to you in detail already and there are dozens and dozens of articles with active comments on them that each editor has to keep an eye on...

      As it is I'm replying on a day off. So please, do understand that this will be my last reply.

      You asked "Did anyone ask you to the remove the content, or ask you to review the content to determine if it was appropriate?"

      No. I did it, and take full responsibility; no one…

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    19. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      "Keep comments relevant to the article and replies relevant to the initiating post"

      The initiating post was directly relevant to the article. It picked up one of the main themes of the article that had yet to be commented upon - the limitations of scope for the Authority. It concluded with:

      "And if the conclusion is that nothing can overcome the power of our Corporate Democracy, then the question becomes: what can be done about that?"

      So, given that I wrote the initiating post, and it called…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Gerry Diamond

      It is actually Abbott Gerry and plenty of fish out around the terminal, even diamond backed red herrings or they could be Emperors.

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  35. George Hirst

    No-budget filmmaker

    Russell Reichelt claims there will be multiple layers of independent oversight. Indeed, past authors (namely John Brodie: https://theconversation.com/dredging-set-to-swamp-decades-of-great-barrier-reef-protection-20442 ) on TC have used Townsville’s port as a good example of how local impacts can be managed safely through transparent, independent monitoring and reporting, and active on-site management."

    But if you read John Brodie's article he says, 'In that case, the Great Barrier Reef Marine…

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to George Hirst

      Hi George, there wasn't any voting by board members as decisions relating to project and development approvals are not made by the board. These responsibilities rest with the agency’s senior management.

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    1. Jan Arens

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      Spot on Jon,
      May want to include
      5. don't dredge

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    2. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to Jan Arens

      The long jetty option includes no dredging. However this would have required BHP, Adani etc to have to work together which was obviously unacceptable!

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    3. Nick Hill

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      Jon,

      Do you know of any figures suggesting how much more expensive on land dumping or the jetty would have been to deem it 'impractical'? This would be an interesting point to raise.

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    4. Dingo Simon

      Owner, Durong Dingo Sanctuary Qld

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      Gidday Jon, have you had any feed back from Minister Andrew Powell?
      I feel he doesn't want to see the physical truth of the state of the GBR.
      I have invited him out for a dive with Lin Sutherland, ( who does doco's for Discovery Channel ) on the GBR but so far he has avoided the invite.
      She has spent the last 2 months filming along the reef and has seen how much it has declined.

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    5. Jan Arens

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      Fair enough.
      Yes, it is amazing how few of them actually work together. Duplication of services to Curtis Island for LNG to name an example.

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    6. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to Dingo Simon

      I wouldn't expect to much in that area. It's a pretty ordinary job being the environment minister in a Queensland Government of any political persuasion in recent times and being in a LNP one is absolutely no comfort. You should pity him!

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    7. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      This newspaper article suggests $360 million to extend the jetty.

      http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/plan-to-cut-abbot-point-dredging-rejected-by-state-government/story-fnihsrf2-1226752347684

      This represents only 3% of the total costs of the port, railway and Carmichael Coal Mine, but what they are concerned about is the time delay by extending the jetty.

      What is concerning is that Adani has huge debts, and it appears they are now heavily dependant on this project to remain viable as a company.

      So our environment is being put at risk to help the economic viability of a foreign company, (and there is no guarantee that company will not go bankrupt in the future), but most of any profits that company makes will go offshore.

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    8. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      Hullo Jon

      Your point 3 - that's reclamation by another name! more loss of the coastal habitat.

      The UNESCO WH mission was particularly concerned about coastal development proposals. At the Cairns meeting (their last of that series - 2012 I think) they specifically asked to hear about all the coastal approvals that had not yet been built - and they refer to this in their Report.

      There is no real excuse for the Applicant not taking the stuff ashore.

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  36. Jack Ruffin
    Jack Ruffin is a Friend of The Conversation.

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Russell, the decision to dredge in this area was bound to cause controversy and rightly so. Our democracy works best with transparency and informed comment and review. I look forward to reading the judgement and further outcomes of the appeal of the decision. Your article indicates the limited purview of the GBRMPA. Most of my concerns arise from issues that may be outside your terms of reference -
    Are we doing enough, quickly enough to avoid climate change and what part will the coal mining add…

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  37. Michael Swifte

    writer

    Liz Minchin,

    I'm aware that many comments have been made and many questions have been posed to Russell Reichelt in the last 4 hours.

    Given the undertaking TC made to facilitate responses to questions from TC readers, can you provide us with a time frame for responses?

    This statement was posted yesterday to the Lock The Gate Alliance Inc Facebook group page.

    "Tomorrow morning Authority Chief Russell Reichelt is writing for us to clear up the dredging myths. He and others from the Authority will be answering your questions in the comments area of the article, especially on the nature and scale of dredging and the environmental impacts."

    Cheers

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    1. Cory Zanoni

      Community Manager at The Conversation

      In reply to Michael Swifte

      Hi Michael,

      There have been a couple of technical issues to sort out on both our end and the Authority's. We're closing in on fixes and they'll be answering questions soon.

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    2. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      The problem will be that the discussion has, as so often happens, wandered off into climate change (and hence lala land) and sensible answers by GBRMPA will need to be restricted to the real issues about dredging and Abbot Point. This will be difficult for GBRMPA.

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    3. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      If Jon considers the acidification of the reef as Lala land then the sensible answers will get us nowhere

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    4. Matthew T Davis

      Instructor

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      Please ask the GBRMPA to try turning it off for a minute - then turning it back on again.
      It's been 5 hours already, surely someone there has the technical nouse to sign on to an internet forum?
      Methinks the potato got too hot.

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    5. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Matthew T Davis

      Hi Matthew

      Russell has been answering questions: quickest way to see them all is search for "Russell Reichelt", there are quite a few above already.

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    6. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to John Chapman

      John, if you click on Jon's profile you'll see that he's written extensively about the risks to the reef, inc climate change.

      https://theconversation.com/profiles/jon-brodie-8141/activities?filter=articles

      I think his concern is that this discussion veers into "Climate change is real!" "No it's not!" territory, when in this case Jon is concerned that the process and decision that's been made on dredge disposal.

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    7. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Well Liz, he did describe climate change as "Lala land" which is hardly scientific, regardless of his credentials.

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    8. Matthew T Davis

      Instructor

      In reply to Liz Minchin

      Yep, I take it back. Cudos to Russell for having the nerve and taking the time (though he seems to be digging a bigger hole for himself in the process).
      Well done TC for facilitating.

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    9. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Greg Young

      That's a fair point Greg - Jon could have been clearer. But he's replied for himself on this in another thread though, so you can see his reply, rather than me replying for him!

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    10. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to Greg Young

      Sorry if I seemed to suggest climate change is 'lala' land. What I meant is that all discussions on The Conversation', including many of my previous articles, have degenerated into dominance of 'for and against' anthropogenic climate change arguments, thus destroying the discussion of the real issue at hand. My own views on climate change and its impacts on the GBR are clear from many articles, media statements etc.

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    11. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      Fair enough; it was an unfortunate turn of phrase, and a very surprising one from my point of view.

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  38. Alan John Hunter

    Retired

    One option that hasn't been canvassed is, giving or selling the spoil to Singapore, they are stealing sand from Indonesia with the connivance of corrupt politicians, causing beach erosion and destroying homes and villages. It probably would be cost effective for them as they wouldn't have to pay for the dredging and bribes.

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  39. David Cameron

    logged in via Facebook

    An interesting article but it leaves me with a problem. We should be reducing our use of coal worldwide as there are other energy forms that are becoming increasingly more attractive. I worry about the suggestion that the dredged material can be 'safely' deposited about 40 km away onto similar soil/silt material. If it is so 'safe' then surely there must be somwhere on the land where it can be deposited. Perhaps if it is so safe then would there be any sense in the miners taking it back to the mine to use as fill for their mined area?

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale, all companies need to assess and keep reassessing operations with international competivity as a yardstick, a longer jetty also then raising the potential of spillages not to mention providing a bigger target for cyclones.
      It does not matter whether it is going to be an Indian, Chinese, Korean or even an Australian company, where will this hole in the GBR be?
      And would not a hole in the sea floor many kilometres from anywhere significant be better than all that additional structure, the cost of which could be the straw.

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    2. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Greg North

      Jetty length should not be an engineering problem at all.

      Lucinda has a 6 km jetty, (the longest in the southern hemisphere), and is in a cyclone area.

      Modern conveyer belt technology can keep a conveyor belt tracking almost perfectly, and immediately stop the belt if something goes wrong.

      If this foreign company wants to gamble with the possibility of environmental damage to a World Heritage area, then it is of concern how much else they will gamble when it comes to building the actual coal mine.

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    3. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      The Port had told media way back that it wanted to dredge because it was quick and cheaper.

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    4. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Hullo Dale

      The reason for the long jetty at Lucinda is because the seabottom there is so mobile that the prospect of dredging the outer bar or the inner bar or even the Enterprise Channel (as some locals would have liked) is out of the question. That's why maintaining a jetty in a harsh tropical marine environment on a cyclone coast was the only option if ships were to load there.

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  40. Jennie Taylor

    Consultant

    Firstly I'd like to congratulate The Conversation on having the good sense to update the 'disclosure statement' on this article.

    Secondly, I'd like to prod The Conversation to disclose that this is an amendment, based on the original 'disclosure' statement on this article being false and misleading.

    If there were an upload option I would include the screenshot that supports this assertion. As there is not, here's a copy-n-paste quote instead:

    "Russell Reichelt does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations."

    Would it be wrong of me to question academic integrity here?

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    1. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Jennie Taylor

      Hi Jennie,

      As soon as I updated it, I wrote a reply in several places to comments about this, so it was clear that it was done & in response to reader comments.

      To be honest, I still don't think the original disclosure was false or misleading: the new disclosure simply says what his job title is, which was already under his name and detailed (at great length) on his profile too. We couldn't have been much clearer that this was a piece by the Authority's chairman... But if there's any criticism, please direct it to me & The Conversation: Russell did the disclosure properly, and his work role was disclosed exactly the same as every other author we have (ie. under his name & in his profile).

      All the best,
      Liz

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    1. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to Pamela McAllister

      This is a perfectly accurate analysis. Dredge spoil is absolutely as detrimental to the GBR as is eroded soil delivered to the GBR by rivers. Please do not believe any suggestions that dredge spoil is somehow less damaging in causing turbidity that impacts on corals and seagrass.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Pamela McAllister

      " Can you please explain why the deliberate introduction of massive amounts of soil directly into the sea is harmless while farmers incidental introduction from inland is a huge threat? "
      Pamela, you just may want to consider the situation as sand, silt and clay being dredged from the sea bottom and placed back on the sea bottom some place else.
      This is a very common practice for many harbours and shipping channels around the planet as one thing that helps keep the planet ticking along.

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    3. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Pamela McAllister

      Hi Pamela, resuspension of sediment by dredging is not assessed as harmless. In local areas where it occurs, there are significant but local pressures. Minimising those pressures and restricting impacts to areas set aside for port development is a high priority for GBRMPA. We also take into account the effects of port development on other uses of the Marine Park, like fishing and tourism. It is GBRMPA which raised the acceptable standards of environmental modelling and assessment of ports activity…

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Why applaud the cattle farmers?

      They are producing a product which causes bowel cancer (that's the consensus scientific position of the equivalent of the IPCC ... the World Cancer Research Fund) and puts carbon on steroids as far as the climate is concerned. I'm happy to have my taxes used to retrain them (just as happened with tobacco farmers), but applause is not deserved.

      Cattle methane accounting currently understates its warming impacts by a factor of about 5. The massive 20 year impacts of methane is why slashing its emissions is considered essential by more than a few climate scientists (including Hansen). Unfortunately beef consumers tend to be about as rational on the issue as pack-a-day smokers.

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    5. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg - are you being disingenuous?

      Marine mud, when lifted from the bottom, is not harmless, for many reasons.

      Can I suggest you consider what happens when marine mud is oxidised?

      Or, if you don't know the answer, or how quickly that happens, in oxygenated seawater, please check it out on the internet.

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  41. Peter Davies

    Bio-refinery technology developer

    Keywords here are "significant or long term" when discussing damage to the reef environment. Clearly indicating damage will occur, but the decision is based on a risk assessment and mitigation approach, neither of which can be guaranteed to be exhaustive or ultimately effective. The questions I pose to the author is does the authority have an obligation to approve such projects, or only has an assessment and consent role? What is the consequences of the Authority saying No?

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Peter Davies

      Hi Peter, GBRMPA has a legislative responsibility to assess all applications submitted by proponents. Criteria for assessing applications are described within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act and the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act. There is no obligation for GBRMPA to approve these applications. Applications will only be approved where it's been demonstrated that significant impact on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park will not occur.

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    2. Peter Davies

      Bio-refinery technology developer

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Thank you Russell, I appreciate your response and whatever the outcome would like to add my thanks for your own & the authorities commitment to answer what for the most part is an informed and skeptical forum, to which TC should also receive a pat on the back.

      I remain concerned at what level of impact constitutes "significant" in what is a declining ecosystem under human induced pressures. I am deeply concerned that such decisions are taken for the short term economic benefit of companies (mostly foreign) though appreciate such niceties are outside your responsibility. Finally I am very disturbed as indicated in my second post at the narrow definition of conflict of interest that is being used and the false reality promoted that in declaring such abrogates responsibility and allows the conflicted to participate in a decision making that by any other measure they should be excluded.

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    1. Steven Fuller

      Asset Management

      In reply to Michael Coleman

      I would like to know this also?

      Further, this harmless dredging process needs to be seasonally limited so that it cannot affect coral spawning. Yet here we are being told the process is harmless to the reef?

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Coleman

      Russell also had a preceding paragraph.
      " If oceanographic conditions such as tides, winds, waves and currents are likely to produce adverse impacts, the disposal will not be allowed to proceed. "
      Michael and Steven, That would seem to have some meaning with respect to the prevailing weather.

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    3. Michael Coleman
      Michael Coleman is a Friend of The Conversation.

      IT Manager at SME Manufacturing

      In reply to Greg North

      Mr North, my question was not directed to you.

      Since you feel qualified to answer, perhaps you might tell me:

      How long, after dumping, is the spoil able to be moved by cyclonic forces?

      How far can the spoil be moved?

      How far ahead does one need to be able to predict a cyclone to ensure no extra negative impact from that cyclone?

      Knock yourself out.

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Coleman

      How long?
      It'll be at depth Michael and any movement by cyclonic forces will I imagine be determined by the strength of any forces and just how that force is able to influence currents at depth.
      I doubt there is too much scientific evidence in that regard, suffice to say unless marine terrain will so induce, deeper water currents will likely not be so impacted by a cyclone.
      How far?
      Again, it'll depend on currents at depth but most divers do find the sea floor normally quite settled.
      How far…

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    5. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Michael Coleman

      Michael, this is a good point that you raise. The assessments conducted on Abbot Point suggest narrowing the window of the disposal activity to between March and June to avoid disturbing corals and seagrasses when they need clear water for growth.

      Consideration was also given to restricting the activity to the wet season since there are massive plumes from rivers when it rains at that time. This approach was taken during the Darwin Harbour development. However, in the central Great Barrier Reef…

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    6. Rangi Faulder

      Student

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      We seem to be forgetting that the disposal site is not equal to the area impacted by plumes created at the disposal site and the dredging site, almost concurrently.

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    7. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg - can I ask how many divers you have seen inspecting the seabottom during a cyclone? You did say "most" - what did the others say?

      Too much inadequate guesswork on your part - not a sound basis for ensuring the safety of the GBRWHA.

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  42. Peter Davies

    Bio-refinery technology developer

    A second and very important issue is the one of defining and management of conflict of interest. The finding recently released that there was no conflict of interest of Authority board members named as having strong industry links represents a very narrow definition of immediate or transparent reward.

    Blind Freddy the bush lawyer would argue there are layers to this finding that are carefully avoided in its "investigation", and the results not credible to the general public.

    As a direct and…

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  43. Lainie Jones

    logged in via Facebook

    Russell Reichelt is the chairman and chief executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority so naturally he’s going to defend his decisions. However, the following reasoning seems skewed to me:

    First he assures us that claims that the Reef will be dredged and toxic sludge dumped in marine waters are false. Then he tells us that that “disposal of dredge material of this type in the Marine Park is not new. It has occurred off nearly all major regional centres along the reef’s coastline…

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  44. Sonum Norbu

    logged in via Facebook

    I guess that 'they' said the same about Fukushima.

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  45. Peter Banks

    retired Civil Engineer

    Mr Reichelt quite clearly makes the point that the GBRMPA's powers are heavily circumscribed regarding development which may affect the health of the reef. To quote: "It is GBRMPA’s strong view that the current situation where governments and agencies make decisions on individual parts of individual projects – in the absence of a larger strategic plan – needs to change."

    But that statement is made only after he has used the circumscription of power as an excuse for not pressing for a solution…

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  46. Shauna Murray

    Associate Professor; ARC Future Fellow, Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster at University of Technology, Sydney

    If I got this right, it seems that only implications on the reef that GBRMPA were able to assess, were the direct impacts of the building of the expansion of the port?

    Were you able to assess multiple models or just one proposal?

    The indirect impacts such as the future increase in shipping, the climate change impacts of the coal use etc, were outside your brief?

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Shauna Murray

      GBRMPA could only assess the potential impacts of dredge disposal associated with the Abbot Point terminal expansion. We could only assess what was before us. In this case, the proposal from North Queensland Bulk Ports contained an application for offshore disposal.

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    2. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Yes, as Russell correctly points out, he didn't have a lot of choices. The process we use to decide these outcomes is broken - UNESCO realised this and hence the need for Australian authorities to improve the process. However no serious steps are being taken to fix the broken process.

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    3. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      I suspect both governments (see their Strategic Assessments) will spin out WH listing for as long as they can before it is finally lost. All we are going to get is promises to make non-statutory plans (state) and some increased staff efforts on some matters of concern (Cth) and not what is needed - appropriate legislation and a genuine determination to ensure the GBRWHA lasts as long as it can, in spite of the time-lag 'externality' of planet-wide ocean acification.

      Acidification: the best we can do is to relieve the GBRWHA of all other impacts in the hope that the carbon story will be reversed one day and the coral reefs will be able to recover. The duty that the State and Commonwealth signed up to under the World Heritage Convention was to protect the GBRWHA "to the utmost" of their resources etc.

      The UNESCO is not pleased with the Strategic Assessments of the State and Cth governments. See their report.

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  47. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to John Chapman

      I did not claim climate change is or was irrelevant. It's of great relevance to the Great Barrier Reef and the current inaction on climate change by the Australian and Queensland Governments will be the main cause of dire future damage to the GBR. However the debate was about really - given Abbot Point was going to go ahead one way or another anyhow, how can we best manage direct impacts on the GBR. By bringing in the climate change issue (and all the strange people out there in that debate!) you totally lose sight of the main technical objections to what Russell Reichelt is saying.

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    2. John Chapman

      At large

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      Thanks, but your expression wasnt too good - you said - 'discussion has ...wandered off into climate change (and hence lala land)' , and 'sensible answers by GBRMPA will need to be restricted to the real issues about dredging.'

      So you were clearly implying that climate change isnt relevant.

      You might care then to set out a new post, with a clear enunciation of your position on climate change (with Abbott Point going ahead, and not going ahead).

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    3. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      Jon,

      I agree. I am convinced that human-caused CC is real and will be far from positive for humanity. But it is a peripheral issue to the one at hand: dredging and its likely impacts.

      I would hope though that there is scope to halt the dredging if significant adverse impact on the GBR are revealed through the (I trust) stringent and transparent monitoring process which is supposedly built into the decision to permit dredging.

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    4. Jan Arens

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Hi Henry, don't expect transparency as the condition to provide interested parties with data has been removed from the package at Abbot point. It was a specific requirement, viz condition 24-"The person taking the action must make the findings, including related data, of any or all of these studies or activities publicly available upon request by any interested parties." It took three years and formal FOI request and representation to a number of ministers to get some incomplete data. They learned their lesson, they left any conditions to make data available out of the equation this time around.

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    5. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      "given Abbot Point was going to go ahead one way or another"

      not from reading other comments from you Jon, we should be making it as hard and as costly as possible,

      I know the GBRMPA limitations on this, but it is now impotent,

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    6. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to john byatt

      The expansion at Abbot Point through a dredging campaign had already been given the go-ahead by the Minister in December. All GBRMPA's role was to permit or not spoil dumping in the Marine Park. GBRMPA had no powers to stop the dredging. This is not all GBRMPA's fault. The fault lies in the Australian Government's decision making process for port developments in the GBR region. This has been explored in a paper by Grech et al. in Marine Pollution Bulletin last year.

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    7. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      Jon - are you saying that because the dredging had been approved by the Cth, it was legally impossible for the GBRMPA to refuse seadumping?

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  48. Peter Milner

    Engineer

    To Liz Minchin, I trust that when Russell Reichelt is finally able to answer questions (as promised in the original article) that there will be a thorough closeout of the questions raised in the comments section.

    Since a significant time has passed without any GBRMP input it would be disappointing to see questions left unanswered due to the volume that have amassed.

    I also encourage commenters who've raised great questions to keep check on the progress of such closeout rather than 'move on' and forget/give up.

    I'm interested to see this progress from a one sided 'conversation' and am pretty surprised that the site would allow the article to even be posted without the author having means to respond (especially when that was the arrangement offered in the original piece). Disappointing so far, but await with interest.

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    1. Liz Downes

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Peter Milner

      I would encourage contributors here who do not receive an answer on this site, or who consider that answer to be unsatisfactory, to put their concerns and questions to Dr Reichelt directly at GBRMPA - their contact details are easily findable on the web.

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    2. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Peter Milner

      Hi Peter, we had some initial IT problems that prevented us from accessing the site, hence the delay in responding to questions.

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    3. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Peter Milner

      Peter and Liz, I can vouch for what Russell is saying - I've spent a fair bit of time working on this today, and he/others at GBRMPA were as frustrated as you, they were trying to log on but having bad internet access problems. (Bring on the NBN for Townsville!) Their IT guys got it sorted, but it was a hard start to the day.

      At our end, we were initially going to post replies under a 'Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority' reader account that was set up so they could have a team of technical…

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    4. Michael Swifte

      writer

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      I suspect the "IT problems" were a cover for the formulation of responses to today's widely covered contradictory FOI reports. It's sad that today's exercise facilitated so vigorously by the TC team reeks of obfuscation for which we're supposed to be grateful.
      Bring on the technical data. Wherever we see obfuscation and woeful regulation we see a conspicuous absence of baseline data. Look at Gladstone, no core sample testing. Questions here about key data sets have been left unanswered. Bring on the technical data. Let us, the people, pour over it.

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  49. Roger Dean

    Consultant

    Russell has contributed a thoughtful and accurate summary of the situation that is so frequently described without either thought or accuracy. People who disagree with the mining of coal or any dredging of ports will remain unhappy, but hopefully Russell's article will provide some reliable background for the more balanced media outlets.

    The dredged material is non-toxic and will not be dumped on coral. Much larger projects have been similarly managed with no discernible environmental impact. The marine park is designed for multiple use, as it should be, with core areas for conservation. Quite right too. That's how most marine parks work. To do otherwise would impoverish nations and communities.

    The world can't do without coal, because we need it as a reducing agent to create the metals needed for bicycles ridden by environmentalists (and me). And the Authority is not tasked with supporting solar power.

    The article is a first rate contribution.

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    1. In reply to Roger Dean

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Roger Dean

      I think that most of the coal will be used in power stns adding to the atmospheric levels of CO2 is that a good thing?

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  50. Alice Kelly
    Alice Kelly is a Friend of The Conversation.

    sole parent

    Russell, thank you for your time, I understand that after the dredging and dumping has been done, testing will be done for a twenty kilometre radius from the spoil. I have no doubt that it is largely non-toxic but given that 40% of it is clay and silt, it would be this component which is of concern. Because of it's fine nature. I've read estimates that it could move at least 60+ km. with storm surges, tidal events and currents. Why was a limit of 20 km put on it for testing. Will there be any monitoring after major events out-side this area. And will there be any ongoing impacts after 5 years, why are you confident that this is long enough?
    The second question is, will there be any effort to put the silt and clay underneath the sand when dumping, to avoid some of the consequences surrounding the movements of these finer particles?

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Alice Kelly

      Hi Alice, the buffer zones were imposed to allow time for onsite managers to intervene if fine sediments drift towards sensitive habitats. The current dredging technology doesn't enable the separation of material such as sand, silt and clay, however natural consolidation of all sediments by burrowing organisms plays a major role in ensuring only usual current-drive sediment movement occurs.

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  51. Les Johnston

    logged in via Twitter

    With due respect to the author, the "stringent" conditions do not equate to protecting the reef and its environment. Monitoring of an activity does not equate to protecting the environment. Experience has shown much monitoring is either: misdirected - not monitoring for parameters that are being altered; or simply monitoring the changes in what is taking place without preventing those changes in the first place. So many "scientific" reports amount to a superficial to monitor what can easily be monitored…

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    1. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to Les Johnston

      Getting a bit like the IPCC reports, suicide notes from a civilization headed for collapse

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    2. Jon Brodie

      Research scientist

      In reply to Les Johnston

      Everything you say about compliance monitoring is so true of what went on in Gladstone! Do we really have faith in the government to do it better at Abbot Point? I have some for the following reasons - it is now under the control of GBRMPA - you may laugh but let me say this is infinitely better than being under the control of the Federal and Queensland Departments of Environment. In addition the level of public scrutiny will be higher than in Gladstone and hence the opportunity to cover up endless unfavourable monitoring results will be more difficult. Maybe this time when water quality guidelines are breached repeatedly (as in Gladstone) some action will be taken. We can only hope.

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  52. Anthony Nolan

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    I found this article uninformative. As I understand it the alternative to dredging deep water ports to load coal would have been building trestles up to one kilometer long to where there is adequate depth. This has been rejected, wait for it, because the coal exporters are far too poor to pay for the best possible practice in the marine park.

    Oh, pull the other one, please.

    Today The Guardian discloses:

    "The dredging and dumping of 3m tonnes of spoil in Great Barrier Reef marine park waters posed an “unacceptable social and environmental risk”, the authority in charge of the world heritage area wrote in draft assessments just months before it approved the permit to carry out the disposal."

    So what changed in three months Mr Reichelt?

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/02/great-barrier-reef-authority-argued-against-dredge-dumping-foi-reveals

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Anthony Nolan

      Hi Anthony, one of the roles of our staff is to identify potential risks involved in projects like this. It's on the basis of those concerns, that we developed strict conditions. These are conditions we'll be rigorously enforcing through an independent technical advice panel, and an independent management response group which will be required to have representatives from the fishing and tourism industries and conservation groups, as well independent coral and seagrass scientists. As I mentioned in my article, we will also have a GBRMPA nominee based at the port during disposal operations to oversee compliance with the conditions.

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    2. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      Thanks for your reply. I no longer have any faith in so called 'independent' monitors. Your own authority identified dredging as a significant risk but you have said, elsewhere, that the report was never submitted. I've had enough experience of departmental reports being 'withheld', ie, buried when the report doesn't suit the politics of the situation, to smell a rat.

      You should resign.

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  53. Nel Matheson

    logged in via Twitter

    My major concern is that the Reef is already under considerable threat from all the factors as explained in the article. Why add to that threat? Is there any possibility of removing the material onto land, rather than in the sea, and secondly, what is the potential environmental damage to the sea grass beds, so vital for the marine life who rely on those feeding grounds?

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  54. Rory McCourt

    Whitsunday local

    In justifying the GBRMPA decision to allow the Abbot Point spoil dumping Mr Reichelt says:

    “in 2006 there were 8.6 million cubic metres of similar sediments excavated and relocated in one year at Hay Point, near Mackay. Scientific monitoring showed no significant effects on the ecosystem.

    Could Mr Reichelt provide public answers to the following:

    1. Who undertook the Hay Point monitoring?
    2. What groups or organisations financed the study?
    3. When was the work done, over what period?
    4. Is the monitoring material available for public Scrutiny?

    Rory McCourt

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    1. Jon Brodie

      Chief Research Scientist at James Cook University

      In reply to Rory McCourt

      This is a very pertinent question. Groups like the Mining and Minerals Council claim no damage following dredging and dumping at Hay Point in 2006. However I think (but don't conclusively know) that the post-dredging studies were of relatively short duration and did not look at multi-year effects. We know benthic sediments in the GBR are able to be resuspended year after year and can eventually travel long distances and continue to have deleterious effects.

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    2. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Rory McCourt

      Hi Rory, the monitoring at Hay Point occurred under permit conditions. GBRMPA approved the monitoring program - this was undertaken by consultants and funded by proponents. Since that time, GBRMPA has updated its hydrodynamic modelling guidelines. Monitoring results of seagrass health and benthic abundance at Hay Point can be found at: http://www.seagrasswatch.org/Info_centre/Publications/pdf/meg/Chartrand_et_al_2008.pdf.

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    3. Margaret Moorhouse

      conservationist and retired psychologist

      In reply to Jon Brodie

      AS any scientist knows, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; and you only find what you look for.

      How is this approach consistent with protection of the GBRWHA?

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  55. Greynomad Travelling

    logged in via Facebook

    So where does this article fit in

    QUOTE

    The authority protecting the Great Barrier Reef believed last year that a proposal to dump 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoils in the marine park area should be refused, new documents show.

    http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.abc.net.au%2Fnews%2F2014-03-03%2Fgreat-barrier-authority-against-dredge-spoil-dumping-documents%2F5293778&h=5AQEyvxxWAQH1uCm1Yky-IcmhwefaQOI415H3kzrv2eeH-g&enc=AZPYsrks9pdXD7P2eUle-b7Lok20TZcoEudho0xJrU6UoZUIX18VttgcUqxcJ6L-sGRUf8_VP5zM4WILKQvicxcZ&s=1

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greynomad Travelling

      You should have a look at the answer to identical questions earlier on nomad.

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    2. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Greynomad Travelling

      Hi Greynomad, hope the travels are going well.

      You've probably seen me & Cory say this to others, but could you please update your profile?

      https://theconversation.com/au/community_standards

      We require real names: they help us maintain a transparent forum. We reserve the right to delete comments made under aliases.

      Thanks! All the best, Liz

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  56. Comment removed by moderator.

    1. In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Comment removed by moderator.

    2. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Peter Davies

      A quick reminder (and to explain why this thread has been deleted, as there was a fair bit of abuse in it)

      Be considerate
      We're here to talk about ideas, not the people behind them.

      We'll delete: personal attacks directed at anyone; all forms of discrimination (or posts that could be interpreted as such); posts we believe exist only to provoke or mislead; and comments that are commercial or repeatedly shared external links.

      Be respectful
      Treat people with the respect you'd like to receive. Admit when you're wrong. You'll come across opinions you disagree with. That doesn't make them invalid.

      Please read these Community Standards - https://theconversation.com/au/community_standards

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  57. Norm Stone

    Farmer

    OK Russell, which report is correct. This one? or:

    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/mar/02/great-barrier-reef-authority-argued-against-dredge-dumping-foi-reveals?CMP=ema_792
    That one?

    "The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) advised the environment department not to approve the dredging of Abbot Point in a port expansion, finding that both the reef itself and threatened species could be at risk if the plan went ahead in a draft submission which it says it did not send."

    Have you changed your mind or do you still think that;

    “The proposal to dredge and dispose of up to 1.6m cubic metres of sediment per year for three separate campaigns between 2014 and 2020 has the potential to cause long-term, irreversible harm to areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, in particular seagrass meadows and nearby coral reefs,”

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Norm Stone

      The draft internal working documents that you refer to correctly identified potential risks. Based on these concerns, we developed conditions that mitigated these potential risks. The assessment process that we undertook is the same one that we apply to all permit applications.

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    2. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Russell Reichelt

      I'll try again...

      So the GBRMPA delegated officer can only attach conditions to approvals as presented and cannot recommend against a proposal or seek substantial changes to the proposal itself. In other words, that once approved and submitted to the delegate, the proposal is already essentially approved and cannot be amended. And this is regardless of the scientific advice the delegate receives. That right?

      Seems a very limited form of authority and a very limited capacity to protect we're talking about here Russell.

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I'll try for you Peter and if you have ever been involved in submitting any sort of a plan for approval by authorities they usually have a sliding scale of activities, zero being no way Jose, ten being what a ripper, we're all for that and then of course any authority might decide that a project could comply as long as a number of conditions are met.
      Whatever the situation, an applicant would be advised of the deliberations and for Abbott Point, why can you not accept that putting a number of conditions on an application would see it as being acceptable?

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    4. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      So a few conditions and somehow the unacceptable becomes transformed into an OK deal? Quite miraculous really.

      Now as you'll note from Russell's comments here - the GBRMPA actually preferred a land disposal option - but they don't get a vote on that ... that was already decided by your mate Hunt - as itwould have been by Labor ... in effect the Authority's delegated officer was presented with a fait accompli with a capacity to impose (I suspect negotiate) some conditions but not to insist on…

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Could have been an easier condition Peter and that is for those who would propose to dispose of the sea bed material or muck for you on sensitive onshore wetlands or take saline saturated material anywhere onshore, they sell their assets as you would have it to rehabillitate that area salinated.
      There would be no need to wait for the damage as it would be starting from day one.
      The reason the GBRMPA did not consider disposal of sea bed material anywhere other than on the sea bed is that they are a Marine Park Authority, that kind of meaning there is a watery notion to their affairs.
      Do you knot feel there are a few knots being created about sea bed material joining more sea bed material.

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    6. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      "Mr North" as a retiring engineer you'd know full well the problems you fellas have with dynamic systems ... our beaches are littered with failed solutions to overcoming natural forces.

      Much easier to buy a few thousand acres and cover it with millions of tonnes of salty sludge for a few decades with the meter running on it than pretend to bury the muck at sea on a sort of a promise that she'll be right.

      Were it down to me I'd be attaching a condition to this proposal that the spoil be dumped 100 meters off the Gold Coast ... a commercially sacred site if ever there was one.

      What I'm suggesting is simple and workable for any major project - that the proponents, regulators and beneficiaries back their assurances with more than promises.

      This whole process seems destined and designed to put the reef and the world heritage area at constant risk. The sort of protection you have when you don't really want to protect something.

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  58. Robert Tony Brklje
    Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, should really drop a major bombshell on the public from the outset. Over the last 2.5 million the Great Barrier reef was completely destroyed every major ice age and there have been quite a few, every 30,000 thousand years lasting around 20,000 years.
    So the Great Barrier Reef is indisputably doomed, however what we are doing is preserving it varied use for access by as many Australians as possible, during this warm period which will last ? more years, no one yet know the answer to that question or why the repeated major ice ages.

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    1. john byatt

      retired and cranky at RAN Veteran

      In reply to john byatt

      second question answer Milankovitch cycles

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      Yep Robert, a lot of people do not really seem to be able to see too much past their noses and live with a philosophy that what happens today will be roonening their kids and grandkids worlds without giving a thought to what nature will do for kids and grandkids over the next few thousands of years.
      For others, it is kind of panic stations.

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  59. Pat Moore

    gardener

    Given the reported facts of firstly, the conflicts of interest in regards to the mining industry of some board members on the GBRMPA and secondly that the dredge dumping was initially strongly objected to by the Authority on environmental protection grounds, how can the general public have confidence that this Authority is none other than an LNP government (both Qld and federal) rubber stamp mechanism to facilitate the interests of global mining corporations? And is this in fact an example of the…

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  60. Robin Bell

    Research Academic Public Health, at University of Newcastle

    With respect to the claim of "not toxic" and "testing by accredited laboratories" could you please clarify the following.
    1. Toxic to what?
    2. What toxins are in the sediment?
    3. What were the acceptable levels of these toxics in the sediments?
    4. Which international standard was referenced?
    5. Which laboratories undertook the testing?
    6. Were the laboratories independent of the interested parties?

    Look forward to your clarification.

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  61. Gail Hamilton

    Wastewater Engineer

    Mr Reichelt, Why do you perpetuate the myth that the GBRMP is intended to be managed as a "Multiple use Marine park open to sustainable use"?
    The GBRMP Act clearly states that its main object is "to provide for the long term protection and conservation of the environment, biodiversity and heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef Region". A secondary object is to allow "ecologically sutainable use". Nowhere in the Act does it require the GBRMPA to allow or encourage activities just because they may be economically advantageous to a minority. "Multiple Use" is not mentioned anywhere in the Act. Perhaps you need to re-read the Act to understand your priorities.
    Also, as you point out, in assessing the application for sea dumping you were required to consider alternatives to ocean disposal. Can you please explain what alternatives were considered and how these were assessed?

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Gail Hamilton

      Hi Gail, GBRMPA does not allow or encourage uses on the basis of economic advantage to anyone. Since its inception, the Marine Park has allowed for many uses and the Zoning Plan includes areas where fishing is allowed, where sea disposal is permissible, and where tourism operations are permitted to go. Sustainable tourism is allowed and encouraged because it fulfils a national obligation to present the region’s world heritage values to the world. Recreation use and scientific research are allowed…

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  62. Brian G

    Spy

    Dear Protector of OUR BARRIER REEF

    Please do your job and protect our reef and not endanger it.

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    1. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Brian G

      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for joining up as a reader today. Could you please update your profile?

      https://theconversation.com/au/community_standards

      We require real names: they help us maintain a transparent forum. We reserve the right to delete comments made under aliases.

      Thanks! All the best, Liz

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  63. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    The draft "Executive Summary - Abbott Point Capital Dredging Permit Assessment" has been obtained by Greenpeace under FoI, and posted on their website: http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/Global/australia/images/2014/Reef/FOIs/Document%2031.pdf

    The concluding statement of this draft seems at odds with Professor Reichelt's article: "The GBRMPA thus considers that the proposal for capital dredging of 3 million [cubic metres] of sediment and disposal to a yet to be specified location within the GreatBarrier…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Arthur

      Russell has made comments in respect to the draft David.

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  64. Jack Ruffin
    Jack Ruffin is a Friend of The Conversation.

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Thank TC for the opportunity to hear from the GBRMPA and the many intelligent and interesting comments. I have enjoyed following the discussion and hope to hear more before and after the court appeal.
    The TC format works well.

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    1. Cory Zanoni

      Community Manager at The Conversation

      In reply to Jack Ruffin

      Thanks Jack, happy to hear it. Hopefully we can do more of the same in the future.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Cory Zanoni

      We have certainly seen the sharks circling Cory and do you know if there have been any marine area studies on it being a particular lean of their dorsal fin that keeps them circling in the one direction!
      And then of course, the old off topic ogre surfaced quite regularly.

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    3. Michael Swifte

      writer

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, You've put in a sterling effort today! Moderately effective water muddying. It's almost like you were getting paid. And you really know how to stay just inside the community standards while keeping outside the spirit of the discussion. A bit like Claytons SPAM. Bravo!

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  65. Prue Gibbs

    citizen

    Dear Prof Reichelt,
    At last, a statement from the Authority elucidating the reasons for your decision.
    Did you write this article in view of the fact that there's going to be a court case challenging dumping on the Reef?
    The case is being prepared as we speak.
    Why didn't you consider building a trestle through the reef instead of dumping? I realise the GBRMPA only has jurisdiction over the Marine Park, but couldn't you flex your muscles a little and make a stand against this useless, deathly endeavour?

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    1. Liz Minchin

      Queensland Editor at The Conversation

      In reply to Prue Gibbs

      G'day Prue,

      I can't speak for Russell on your concerns about their decision, but for your sake and general transparency I can answer when and how this article came about.

      I contacted GBRMPA nearly a month ago, only a few days after their decision on Abbot Point. We'd run some very critical articles about it, and I'd seen a few stories quoting GBRMPA replying - but mostly being newspaper or quick online news stories, they were always constrained by word length, so typically you'd only get 1-2…

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  66. Michael Rynn
    Michael Rynn is a Friend of The Conversation.

    unemployed generalist

    " . . . that there would be no significant or lasting impacts on the reef’s world heritage values. . . ."

    Damage will be highly Significant, as Abbott Point wants to become the gateway for new Mega Coal mines, including Gallilee Basin.

    The entailed Economic growth and increased carbon emissions, wether they are in China, Australia or elsewhere, will accelarate the acidification and warming of our oceans. This dooms the Great Barrient Reef coral and diversity survival as we currently know…

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  67. Comment removed by moderator.

  68. Felicity Jane Ahern

    logged in via Facebook

    Why is there no response to some of these amazing and intelligent questions? Some clarification is needed and since the Authority are relying on a "transparency" from the mining industry and thus the government, which so far has been alarmingly opaque, to maintain safe standards...we seem to be relying an a transparency from the Authority that seems just as deceptive.
    How can we assume that dumping millions of tonnes of silt (even non toxic silt) anywhere in the ocean could be anything but negative on an already eroded and polluted area, especially in light of these documents released, stressing the detrimental outcome only a little while ago from the very same Authority?

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Felicity Jane Ahern

      Hi Felicity, I'm working through as many of the questions as possible. The documents you mention that were aired in the media today were preliminary working drafts. They correctly identified potential risks, and on the basis of those concerns, we developed a series of strict conditions to mitigate those potential risks.

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  69. Geoff Russell

    Computer Programmer, Author

    Many thanks Russell for both the article and your responses to comments. There should be more of it!

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  70. Cameron Wheatley

    Student

    Great, so the 50% of the reef that isn't already dead will be nicely preserved until the remaining 50% dies as the climate changes…. while Palmer and his billionaire buddies get to laugh all the way to the bank assisted by the liberal ideology of dig, drill burn.

    the question we should all be asking here is why are expanding a coal port in the first place?

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Cameron Wheatley

      Cameron, Do you eat beef? Are you anti-nuclear? If so, then you are part of the problem and responsible for the damage of the past 2 decades. We have uranium, we didn't have to back coal ... but the anti-nuclear movement saw to it that we had coal and not nuclear ... to my shame, I was part of that, but at least my food habits weren't damaging the reef.

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  71. Steve Hindle

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    Thanks for the article Russell,
    I accept that the dredging in itself is not a serious problem - if it is considered in isolation.
    Climate change, cyclones, and crown of thorns starfish outbreaks (boosted by fertilizer run off and floods) are far bigger problems. Some of these threats are indirectly linked to coal exports. In the end the argument often depends on how wide a view a person takes.

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Fertiliser? That makes it sound like its the farmer's fault. It isn't. It's the people who create the demand who are the culprits. Fertiliser is just a means to an end and the end is primarily beef. So it's land clearing for pasture and the consequent fertilisation that are causing the lions share of the damage on behalf of people who like to play Russian roulette with bowel cancer ... people who eat beef are killing the reef. http://bit.ly/1g4co6U

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    2. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      "Fertiliser? That makes it sound like its the farmer's fault. It isn't."
      Your simplistic statement does not suit a complicated world. There are many ways to spread the blame for fertilizer run off and some of it can be sheeted home to farmers. Some are working hard and involving themselves in land management programs to reduce the problem and should be commended. Others will be putting in token efforts. Fertilizer run off is everyone's problem, including farmers, governments and consumers.

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    3. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      Hello geoff, If you want to bang on about fertilizer, don't forget the tonnes of ammonium nitrate the coal miners use on a very regular basis all concentrated in a small geographic area. It is also convenient to forget that governments banned large scale tree clearing some 20 years ago. The biggest culprits for land clearing today are housing estate developers.

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    4. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      Mike. Please don't just make stuff up. The land clearing rates are available in Australia's submissions to the UNFCCC. http://bit.ly/1fCS5fY Here's a bit of an overview: http://bit.ly/1fCSwqS Put simply, we only use a couple of million hectares for suburbs/cities and cattle farmers are clearing have been clearing about half a million hectares per year for a couple of decades. Livestock are a larger climate forcing over the next 20 years than all our coal fired power stations ... that's supported…

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    5. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Dale Bloom

      Dale, please spend a week or so reading our UNFCCC submission and the other items I linked above. People have been measuring these things very precisely for many years. When I said livestock were a bigger forcing than our coal fired power stations, I wasn't guessing but simply translating some quite well measured and researched quantities into (almost) lay terms. The word "forcing" can be thought of as "warming". Turning CO2 (carbon dioxide) into CH4 (methane) ... is what cattle do, without peer, and it increases the warming impact by a factor of 105 (per kg) for about 20 years. This isn't a matter of my opinion Vs somebody elses, it's just the best available science and it isn't questioned by anybody who understands this stuff. To verify what I've said, please just read the links I cited.

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    6. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      PS. I don't mean to imply we don't need to leave our coal in the ground and close our coal power stations. Both are essential. But they aren't sufficient to stop dangerous climate change. We have to deal the non-CO2 forcings and reforest (see for example: http://arxiv.org/abs/0804.1126).

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    7. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      It is handy to quote cherry picked numbers. Note in one of the links you gave that the tree clearing rate dropped in Qld to 123,000 hectares after the introduction of the tree clearing ban was introduced. This "clearing" was almost all mulga dozed down for fodder for cattle and was done under a permit system. In case you are not familiar with the growth vigour of mulga, it regenerates very quickly into dense thickets. The ground under it is inevitably bare and easilly eroded in heavy rain. It is a far cry from what happened in the 1970s and 1980s with broad scale clearing of brigalow and eucalypt forests by the millions of hectares.

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    8. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      CO2 emissions don't vanish because the dozer driver has a license to drag his chain through woodland under the nudge-nudge-wink-wink "fodder harvesting" scheme. Happily the people and software that crunch the satellite data to prepare the UNFCCC submissions understand this. You claimed large scale land clearing was banned "20 years" ago. Wrong. In the last 3 years available (2009-11) the emissions listed under "converting forest to grassland" were 45 megatonnes, 43 megatonnes and 34 megatonnes respectively…

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    9. Dale Bloom

      Analyst

      In reply to Geoff Russell

      I wouldn’t rule out coastal development as not being a big player in the gradual destruction of coastal and estuary ecosystems in QLD, and those ecosystems do affect the reef.

      Quite frankly, take out CO2, and most coal mines probably have less impact on the environment than does cattle grazing (and farming such as sugar cane growing) or coastal development.

      The project at Abbot Point will considerably increase the population of nearby Bowen, (as coal mining did to Mackay), and that increase in population will definitely affect ecosystems.

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  72. Gregor Napier Cutlack

    Builder/Farmer

    Dear GBRMA,
    If the dredging of the port facilitates the expansion of our coal exports and the climate continues to warm. Who's fault is it?? Shall I tell my son that good people where paid good money to help achieve this sorrowful outcome.

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    1. Geoff Russell

      Computer Programmer, Author

      In reply to Gregor Napier Cutlack

      Why not tell your son the whole truth? The current coal expansion is the direct result of the anti-nuclear movement preferring coal to uranium for the past 30 years and the current (and on-going) damage to the reef is caused by beef production (mainly) ... http://bit.ly/1g4co6U

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  73. Brian Bycroft

    Professional

    The arguments put forward by Russell Reichelt in justifying GBRMPA‘s decision to allow the dumping of 5 million tonnes of waste in the Marine Park are so weak that it hard to imagine that any opponents would change their views. Let’s look at some of his key arguments:

    Need to consolidate port activities:
    Mischievously or otherwise, Dr Reichelt is confounding the decision to expand the port with how and where to dispose of the dredge spoil; the two issues, though related, are conceptually different…

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    1. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Brian Bycroft

      Brian, I believe you are right in your statement,"I remain to be convinced that anything other than lip services will be paid to this condition". Russel Reichelt has yet to make a statrment that has the evidence of why the decision to dredge and dump at sea is a logical and scientifically arrived at decision. Nowhere in any of his posts on this page has he given any any inclination to give us the information as to why the decision was made. Instead, he has written about some senior anonomous manager/s…

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    2. Jon Brodie

      Research scientist

      In reply to Brian Bycroft

      Hi Brian

      Yes the offsets are impossible to implement. The only solution will be to explain them away in some superficial way avoiding the science just as whoever set them did not think through the science in the first place. In some ways the lack of practibility of them is amusing to those of us, you and I among them, who know something about the Burdekin and Don catchments and the erosion going on there. One also wonders where they are going to offset the larger amounts of spoil generated through dredging at Hay Point, Townsville etc. Perhaps the government's plans (both feds and state) to have dams on every stream will help trap the sediment! Unfortunately the Burdekin Falls Dam doesn't actually trap much of the less than 15.6um fraction.

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  74. Suzanne Arnold

    Co-ordinator

    Given the extent of correspondence in response to Dr Reichelt's article, the focus needs to be squarely directed on the failure of both major parties when in government ,as well as government agencies, to protect the Reef. The Reef is an indicator of the exponential collapse of Australia's democracy. The complete lack of any independent analysis of the cumulative impacts of this Trojan horse; the failure of the GBRMPA to uphold its raison d'etre; the ongoing reliance by Qld and Feds on government…

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    1. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Suzanne Arnold

      Suzanne, Thank you for your well structured and lucid argument. I believe you have expressed the situation very well. My hope is that the reactions of the readers to this article will trigger a review of GBRMPAs decision to allow the dumping of dredge spoil at sea.

      Any politicians reading this should be alarmed for not only the destiny of the reef, but also for their parliamentary seats regardless of what party they belong. This demonstrates a massive political failure where the public was not only ignored but underestimated.

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  75. John Sayers

    Designer

    Thankyou Russell for informing this site of the real story.

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  76. John Sayers

    Designer

    Abbot Point was built in 1984. Presumably the area was dredged at that time to establish the offshore loading bays that have operated continually since then.
    Could someone please point me to the research papers that indicate what damage it caused and the ongoing detrimental impacts it has caused the GBR.

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  77. Maria Macdonald

    logged in via Facebook

    Have they gotten to Russell Reichelt, chairman and chief executive of the GBRMPA, too? Otherwise he's read it all awfully wrong.

    Explanation: When we say the "Reef" we mean the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef area and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The approved dump area and its vicinity which is very near Holbourne Island National Park contains many of the outstanding universal values held within the World Heritage Area.

    The dredged sludge comes from a 30yr old coal port - Abbot Point…

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  78. Kate O'Callaghan

    logged in via Facebook

    Why then do draft reports by the GBRMPA dating as recently as August 2013 argue against both the dredging and dumping of dredge spoil, finding they posed an “unacceptable social and environmental risk” with the potential for “long-term, irreversible harm harm to areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, in particular seagrass meadows and nearby coral reefs”?

    It seems clear that political pressure played a huge role in driving the approval to dispose of dredge waste at sea.

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Kate O'Callaghan

      No I think if you read carefully what Russell is saying, no political pressure was necessary ... rather the process of approvals and the limited power of the GBRMPA to interfere with a project once approved and submitted, saw them reduced to setting conditions rather than saying "no way".

      I'd be curious as to what independent legal advice was obtained by the Authority that saw it nobbled so effectively ... what changed between the initial draft concerns (the whiteboard documents) and the eventual…

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    2. Peter Davies

      Bio-refinery technology developer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, I think you are making too many allowances here, in reply to my direct question raised early Russell clearly states within his response "There is no obligation for GBRMPA to approve these applications". The Act requires they take the Ministers decisions into account but this is not a Ministerial direction to approve. Which still leads to the why the earlier (and to all appearances correct) position was not merely reassessed, but did a complete U-turn from the unequivocal to the she'll be right!

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    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Peter Davies

      No he does say that, but then also that they cannot seek to modify a proposal as presented, say by insisting on land-based disposal as a condition of approval ... so I find myself more confused than I was before Russell's explanations.

      The initial scientific advice does seem quite unequivocal yet we find ourselves seeing the Authority's delegate approving the project subject to conditions. And the reason for this Russell implies, is that the delegate is unable to modify an unacceptable proposal. All most odd really.

      Pity we can't get something like ICAC or the CJC or the Ombudsman to take a look at this independently. Yet another Royal Commission???

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    4. Peter Davies

      Bio-refinery technology developer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      No he cannot seek to modify the proposal by suggesting a land based disposal option, nor do they have to, GBRMPA could have legitimately refused the application which in effect only leaves land based disposal...their stated preference.

      The why this wasn't done is where confusion reigns supreme.

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    5. Hugh McColl

      Geographer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter Ormonde, in coming months the North Queensland Conservation Council (NQCC) in Townsville will be taking GBRMPA to the federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to discuss this approval. If nearby Magnetic Island's Magnetic Quays/Keys project (1989) is anything to go by (and what better entree could any researcher into GBRMPA's legal manoeuvring want?), almost every document, photograph and statement ever uttered about Abbot Point will end up on the table. Unless of course, recent federal…

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    1. Russell Reichelt

      Chairman and Chief Executive of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; Adjunct Professor at James Cook University

      In reply to Michael Coleman

      Hi Michael, your question about cyclone season was a good one. I answered it earlier today as a direct reply to your earlier post.

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  79. Edmund Esterbauer

    logged in via Twitter

    This is an irresponsible undertaking and will impact on tourism and diminish Australia's clean and green reputation. Sediment and runoff are listed as a major impact already on the reef. Adding to it only makes the problem worse. The current LNP are environmental vandals and Abbott is rewarding his cronies for their financial support during the election. The problem with the current Federal government is the damage they can reek in a short space of time both economically and environmentally. Do we really want to risk an Australian iconic destination for an expansion in coal mining at a time when other countries are seeking alternative energy sources? Increase the supply of coal as countries level of their demand and the price will fall. Then Abbott will blame the workers for being inefficient.

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  80. Albert Rogers

    logged in via Facebook

    The Reef is already receiving a great deal of coal waste. The largest emissions of waste from coal are gaseous, and until Australia shuts down ALL its fossil carbon burning, the mercury vapur, notrogen oxides, sukphur oxides, and carbon dioxide will continue to damage the ocean in which the Reef lives. The inanimate part of it is calcium carbonate, which is damaged by all these gases. As for dumping solids into the ocean, it amazes me that the Conversation can regard the few tons of fission products and plutonium from the crippled Japanese reactors as a disaster, and ignore the potent ability of nuclear power to replace these thousands of tons of poisons and millions of tone of potentially reef-dissolving carbon dioxide.

    Dumping sludge in the ocean at a point where somehow nothing is living on the bottom still seems a bit reckless.