The organisation charged with protecting the World-Heritage-Listed Great Barrier Reef has just approved an application for the dumping of 3 million cubic metres of waste sediment inside the reef's marine park borders.
The organisation - Australian government department GBRMPA - announced it's decision 31st January 2014. The decision was also endorsed by the Federal Minister for the Environment, Mr Greg Hunt.
The waste will be generated by North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation during the expansion of the existing coal terminal at Abbot Point, in Bowen, Queensland. The region features great natural beauty, but (unfortunately for it) has substantial coal reserves.
Spoil and sediment dumped at sea is known to drift up to 50 miles from the dump site, which would endanger parts of the reef. "There may not be coral reefs immediately where the dumping occurs, but there's certainly going to be coral reefs within 80km and they're certainly going to be at risk from this,'' said Australian Marine Conservation Society's Felicity Wishart. Lobbying the GBRMPA to deny the application was unsuccessful - a letter signed 233 scientists and conservationists outlining the danger to the reef was largely ignored.
The announcement is the latest in a series of anti-environmental decisions made by the GOP like Australian Liberal/National party, which swept into power in September 2013 on a mandate to end the carbon emission trading scheme implemented by the previous left-wing government.
The scheme appeared to be working - the Australian Climate Commission released a report in April 2013 showing that emissions from electricity generation in 2012 dropped by 4.7 per cent compared to the previous year, without impacting GDP. The new government responded by immediately closing down the Climate Commission and pulling all funding, while it introduced new legislation to repeal the scheme.
Next on the LNP agenda was the Murray Darling river system, a fragile ecosystem that was being destroyed by the excessive granting of water rights to primary producers. From 2009, the previous government began a buy-back of the water rights, allowing the river system to begin to recover. The LNP reversed the policy, announcing it was selling the water back to producers. The announcement was made in January 2014, a mere 4 months after the party came into power.
But the Great Barrier Reef decision may prove embarrassing and costly to Australia in the medium term. In June of this year, the status of the reef is likely to be changed to "in danger" by the World Heritage Committee. This has been predicted to impact tourism revenue - the reef generates an estimated USD$5.6 billion dollars and employs 64,000 staff.