Referral of the inquiry
On 25 March 2014, the Senate referred the following matter to the
Environment and Communications References Committee (the committee) for inquiry
and report by 25 June 2014:
The adequacy of the Australian and
Queensland Governments' efforts to stop the rapid decline of the Great Barrier
Reef, including but not limited to:
management of the impacts of industrialisation of the reef coastline,
including dredging, offshore dumping, and industrial shipping, in particular,
but not limited to, current and proposed development in the following regions
(i) Gladstone Harbour and Curtis Island,
(ii) Abbot Point,
(iii) Fitzroy Delta, and
Cape Melville and Bathurst Bay;
(b) management of the impacts of agricultural runoff;
(c) management of non-agricultural activities within reef catchments
impacting on the reef, including legacy mines, current mining activities and
practices, residential and tourism developments, and industrial operations
(d) ensuring the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has the
independence, resourcing and capacity to act in the best interest of the
long-term health of the reef;
(e) the adequacy, timeliness and transparency of independent scientific work
undertaken to support government decisions impacting the reef;
(f) whether government decision processes impacting the reef are consistent
with the precautionary principle;
(g) whether the Strategic Assessments currently underway are likely to
protect the reef from further decline;
(h) the identification and protection of off-limits areas on the reef
coastline to help protect the health of the reef;
(i) consistency of efforts with the World Heritage Committee's recommendations
on what is required to protect the reef;
(j) the extent to which government decisions impacting the reef, including
development of the Strategic Assessments and Reef 2050 Plan, involve genuine,
open and transparent consultation with the Australian community, affected
industries and relevant scientific experts, and genuine consideration of the
broader community’s views in final decisions; and
(k) any other related matters.
The reporting date was subsequently extended to 27 August 2014.
It was then extended again to 3 September 2014.
Conduct of the inquiry
The committee advertised the inquiry on its website and in The
Australian newspaper. The committee also wrote to relevant organisations and
individuals inviting submissions by 2 June 2014. The committee received 64 submissions,
which were published on the committee's website and are listed at Appendix 1.
The committee held public hearings relating to its inquiry in Brisbane
on 21 July 2014, Mackay on 22 July 2014, and Townsville on 23 July
2014. A list of witnesses who appeared at the hearings may be found at Appendix
The committee notes that there were some comments in the media
from a member of the House of Representatives about whether this Senate inquiry
was being conducted in a balanced manner, and in particular, whether North
Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation was given the opportunity to 'defend
themselves' during this inquiry. The committee notes that it wrote to the North
Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (along with numerous other industry groups),
inviting it to make a submission to the inquiry. North Queensland Bulk Ports
Corporation did eventually make a submission responding to evidence received
during the inquiry.
Ports North, who did make a submission, were invited to come to the hearing in
Townsville but declined, noting that they would be represented at the inquiry
through their industry bodies, Queensland Ports Association and Ports Australia,
in Brisbane on 21 July 2014.
The committee would like to thank all the organisations, individuals and
government departments that contributed to the inquiry.
Notes on references
Hansard references in this report are to the proof committee Hansard.
Page numbers may vary between the proof and the official Hansard transcript.
Structure of the report
This chapter outlines the conduct of the inquiry. Chapter 2 provides an
introduction and background in relation to the Great Barrier Reef, in
particular the legal and policy framework relating to the reef, primarily at
the Commonwealth level. It also examines the World Heritage Committee's
concerns about the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, as well as some of
the relevant reviews, reports, plans and strategies relating to the Great
Chapter 2 sets out background information relating
to the management of the Great Barrier Reef, including a summary of the legal
framework at the Commonwealth level. It also examines the World Heritage
Committee deliberations and outlines some of the relevant recent policies, reports,
plans and strategies.
Chapter 3 provides an overview of the scientific evidence on the health
of the Great Barrier Reef, including evidence that the Great Barrier Reef is in
decline and the reasons behind this decline; as well as the importance of
scientific work underpinning decision-making, including incorporation of the
Chapter 4 examines catchment management and the quality of water
entering the Great Barrier Reef from the catchment areas. The chapter examines
the issues relating to broad scale run-off and those related to specific, more
localised, activities. The chapter also examines the use of no-go zones in the
catchments and within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Chapter 5 considers issues relating to the management of the impacts of
port developments, including dredging and disposal of dredge spoils, in the
Great Barrier Reef Region. Chapter 6 examines particular issues in relation to
the development of the Port of Abbot Point and the Port of Gladstone. Chapter 7
outlines issues relating to the management of shipping.
Chapter 8 looks at governance, management and funding arrangements
relating to the Great Barrier Reef, including the role, resourcing and
independence of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, as well as cooperation
and coordination between governments, along with role of the Strategic
Assessments and proposed long-term sustainability plan.
Chapter 9 draws together the committee's conclusions and recommendations
in relation to the management of the Great Barrier Reef.
In terms of the four regions identified in the inquiry's term of
reference (a), Fitzroy Delta and Cape Melville/Bathurst Bay are considered in
Chapter 5. Gladstone Harbour/Curtis Island and Abbot Point are outlined in further
detail in Chapter 6.
The committee notes that term of reference (i), relating to the efforts
to respond to the World Heritage Committee's recommendations, is considered where
relevant in each chapter.
Finally, the committee notes that it received very little evidence on the
issue of fishing.
As such the committee does not examine this issue in any detail in this report.
The committee notes, however, that there is a comprehensive discussion of the
impacts of, and issues in relation to, fishing in section 5.4 of the Outlook
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page