Qld will report to Gillard Govt on plans for Abbot Pt upgrade

The Abbot Pt development would involve new shipping berths and dredging within the ports' precinct, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The Abbot Pt development would involve new shipping berths and dredging within the ports' precinct, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

THE Queensland Government has called for proposals to develop a huge new expansion of the Abbot Point port, despite concerns raised earlier this year about the risks the port could pose to the Great Barrier Reef.

After abandoning the previous state government's proposals to further expand the port in May, Acting Premier Jeff Seeney called for expressions of interest in the development on Friday afternoon.

The development would involve new shipping berths and dredging among other infrastructure to be built within the ports' precinct, adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

But the call for expressions of interest comes after the United Nations World Heritage Committee expressed concerns about any new developments within, or adjacent to the reef earlier this year.

The committee voiced its concerns after a mission to Australia, in a report which also rose concerns about any new port developments, outside existing port areas, in or adjacent to the World Heritage Area.

Mr Seeney said the coal export sector was critical to the state's economy and the infrastructure needed to be provided "in a timely and commercial basis to facilitate the expansion of this leading industry".

"In May 2012, the Newman Government decided to discontinue the process put in place by the previous government relating to prospective port and coal terminal development at Abbot Point," he said.

"Instead, the government began a review to look at clearing the way for the development of infrastructure, with a higher degree of certainty that additional export infrastructure would be delivered.

"This includes the objective that any future development is staged and closely aligned with emerging demand for port capacity."

The move to further develop the port was in part based on a report to government showing the emerging demand for additional port capacity.

But it also comes after Mr Seeney, as the Minister responsible for state development, removed coastal planning policy protections from the Department of Environment, putting the policy on hold.

Documents on the state government's website reveal it plans to report to the Australian Government on a strategic assessment of risks to the Great Barrier Reef before the end of this year.

But that report will not necessarily be made public at that stage, with the final report, including the state government and the marine park authority's views, to be included in a national report to the world heritage committee by February 1.

Topics:  abbot point australian government business environment great barrier reef great barrier reef marine park jeff seeney port queensland government

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