Appendix 6

Appendix 6

Abbot Point Dredging Project

Overview of project


6.1        On 5 December 2011, North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation Limited referred a proposal under the EPBC Act to undertake capital dredging of approximately 3 million cubic metres at the Port of Abbot Point, and for the disposal of the dredged material (including options at sea). The proposal would facilitate the development of Terminal 0, Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 at the Port of Abbot Point in Queensland.

Impact of the project

6.2        On 6 January 2012, the project was determined to be a controlled action due to likely significant impacts on World Heritage properties; National Heritage places; listed threatened species and communities; listed migratory species; Commonwealth marine areas; and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Assessment of the proposal

6.3        The project was assessed by Public Environment Report (PER) with 103 submissions received on the draft document. The proposal was approved on 10 December 2013 subject to 41 conditions, including requirements to mitigate and manage impacts on the environment and for the provision of offsets.

Offset requirements

6.4        Condition 31 of the EPBC Act approval conditions requires the proponent to submit an Offsets Plan to the Minister for the Environment for approval prior to commencement of dredging and disposal activities. Under the approval decision,[2] the Offsets Plan must:

6.5        Condition 32 states that 'the approved Offsets Plan must be implemented'.

6.6        The Department's submission states that:

The offsets were considered within the framework of the EPBC Act Environmental Offsets Policy and to demonstrate that the outcome would result in a net benefit. In relation to the 150% offset requirement, the proponent suggested investment in sediment reduction options in the Great Barrier Reef catchment, and the Department put forward the quantum required to get a meaningful improvement in water quality.[3]

6.7        The Department's submission further advises that 'an independent technical advice panel will review the adequacy of the mitigation, monitoring, research and offset requirements and whether they meet the conditions of approval, before any dredging begins'.[4]

6.8        The Department's submission states that:

Overall, the implementation of the conditions of approval will result in a net benefit to the health of the Great Barrier Reef and better environmental protection in the long-term.[5]

Legal challenge

6.9        The committee notes that the Minister's approval decision is being challenged by the Mackay Conservation Group in the Federal Court under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977 (Cth). The case has been set down for trial in October 2014.[6]

Issues with the proposed offsets

6.10      As noted in Chapter 6, the committee does not intend to comment on particular projects. However, the committee notes that submitters and witnesses raised a number of key issues in relation to the offsets conditions for this project. These included: that they [the proponent] were presenting very different numbers to the environment department than are available in the public documentation. The public documentation does not at all articulate what quantity of fine sediment will be available for resuspension, so you cannot scrutinise it.[16]

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