Govt probe to examine impacts of harbour dredging

The Rotterdam cutter suction dredge on Gladstone Harbour.
The Rotterdam cutter suction dredge on Gladstone Harbour. David Sparkes

THE Federal Government has launched an investigation into "a number of issues related to the impact of dredging" in Gladstone Harbour.

Confirmation of the investigation by the Federal Environment Department puts paid to media reports published on the weekend that an investigation was looking into "audit conditions".

It also follows a comprehensive Gladstone Ports Corporation rebuttal of the claims made in national press that an investigation into audit compliance was under way.

A detailed statement from the department revealed the regulatory authority did not consider the ports corporation to have breached approval conditions related to audits or annual compliance reports.

But the statement instead confirmed the department was "looking into a number of other matters related to the impact of dredging within Gladstone Harbour".

Revelations of a regulatory investigation into dredging in the harbour comes just a day after Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced the terms of reference of an independent inquiry into the management of the harbour.

It also comes two months after APN Newsdesk revealed the ports corporation was fined $6600 for an emergency dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area in January last year.

The department said it could not make any further comment while the investigation was underway, but it is understood the investigation was related to the Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project.

In the statement, the department also revealed that despite no approval conditions requiring an independent audit compliance report, audits were undertaken independently of port management.

"The conditions also allow for an independent audit to be directed by the department," the statement reads.

"However, the Gladstone Ports Corporation is only required to undertake an independent audit upon direction by the department.

"While the Gladstone Ports Corporation 2011 compliance report indicates that it is an independent audit report, this was not done at the direction of the department."

The department also confirmed it had not considered an independent audit into the port's compliance with approval conditions "to be necessary at this time".

Topics:  australian government dredging environment gladstone harbour gladstone ports corporation

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