18 October, 2013

Great Barrier Reef & the Ports Plan

Draft Ports Plan

Many of Qld’s major trading ports are near or adjacent to important environmental values including the Great Barrier Reef.

The Qld Government is attempting to address the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) concerns.

UNESCO raised concerns about the level of development along the Qld coast and its impact on the World Heritage site, including water quality and the loss of coral.

UNESCO recommends that the Australian and Qld Governments restrict port development outside the long-established major port areas within or adjoining the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Qld Government’s response includes:

The aim of the draft Qld Ports Strategy is managing and improving the efficiency and environmental management of the state’s port network over the next decade.

The strategic objectives of the draft Qld Ports Strategy include:
  •     providing certainty and direction for future port planning,
  •     supporting environmental protection, in particular for the Great Barrier Reef,
  •     supporting improvements in the management and productivity of ports and the ports network,
  •     enhancing supply chain connections,
facilitating the strategic use of ports.

The key actions are:
  • ·     establishment of Priority Port Development Areas (PPDAs),
  • ·     prohibition of capital dredging for the development of deep water port facilities outside of PPDAs (for ten years),
  • ·     guidance for leading practice master planning for Qld ports.

Along Qld’s 6,973 km coastline, there are 20 ports including 15 trading ports, two community ports, and three gazetted non-trading ports. The PPDAs are proposed for the ports of Brisbane, Mackay/Hay Point (two separate zones), Gladstone, Townsville and Abbot Point.

The Qld Government proposes legislation to be in place by next year to deliver on these commitments. Ports would have to prepare master plans and outline how they will meet Qld and federal environment assessment standards.
The Qld Ports Strategy attempts to align with the National Ports Strategy and relevant international, national, state and local legislation and policy for the responsible and efficient operation of ports. Alignment with the National Ports Strategy is of particular importance as it is designed to improve port and freight infrastructure productivity and attract greater private sector investment. The National Ports Strategy calls for integrated plans across ports.

The Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) used to provide an overarching mechanism for protecting the World Heritage values from inappropriate development, including actions taken inside or outside which could impact on its heritage values.  The Federal Government is in the process of handing over these responsibilities to the State Governments.

Development proposals were required to undergo rigorous environmental impact assessment processes, often including public consultation, after which the Federal Minister may decide, to approve, reject or approve under conditions designed to mitigate any significant impacts.  This may be replaced by a one-stop-shop for Environmental approvals at State level.

A recent amendment to the EPBC Act did make the GBR Marine Park an additional 'trigger' for a matter of National Environmental Significance which provided additional protection for the values within the GBR.

Coal is still the predominant commodity export representing 63 per cent of volumes followed by bauxite at 15 per cent and petroleum products 6 per cent.
The remaining 16 per cent is shared by metals and minerals, general cargo, agriculture and other products.

The draft Qld Ports Strategy has been informed by the results of consultation on the draft Great Barrier Reef Ports Strategy

The main themes of public consultation on the Great Barrier Reef Ports Strategy included:
  • ·       support for the concentration of development to within existing port limits
  • ·       recognition of the important role of ports in facilitating the growth of economies
  • ·       concern for the Great Barrier Reef and threatened species
  • ·       support for improving port planning and master planning
  • ·       support for strengthening protection of land and corridors near ports
  • ·       support for improving environmental management consistently across ports
  • ·       support for strategic alignment in planning activities across jurisdictions, particularly with the National    Ports Strategy.

These key themes and issues raised during the consultation process on the draft Great Barrier Reef Ports Strategy are outlined in the Great Barrier Reef Ports Strategy - Summary of Consultation Responses Report.

The draft Qld Ports Strategy will be open for public comment until 13 December 2013. For more information and to complete an online survey to have your say visit: www.dsdip.qld.gov.au/qps

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