The Queensland Government claims its draft strategy to develop the state’s ports will ensure the protection of the coastline and its most prized asset, the Great Barrier Reef. Greenpeace Australia, says, however, it's all just a con.

Five Priority Port Development Areas (PPDAs) have been proposed for the ports of Brisbane, Mackay/Hay Point (two separate zones), Gladstone, Townsville and Abbot Point where development will be concentrated and encouraged.

State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Jeff Seeney said this was the government’s blueprint for managing and improving the efficiency and environmental management of the state’s port network along Queensland’s 6,973-kilometre coastline over the next decade.

The strategy will prohibit capital dredging for the development of deep water port facilities outside of PPDAs for the next 10 years, which Seeney said would ensure the protection of key environmental areas of the Queensland coastline.

“This strategy preserves and builds on the State’s commitment in the Great Barrier Reef Ports Strategy to restrict any significant port development within and adjoining the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to within port limits to 2022,” he said. “The draft Queensland Ports Strategy aligns with the recommendation made by UNESCO that the Australian and Queensland Governments restrict port development outside the long-established major port areas within or adjoining the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.”

Seeney added that it was important to find a sensible way forward and work within the existing port networks to ensure the state can still do business but not put at risk Queensland’s greatest natural asset, the Great Barrier Reef.

According to Greenpeace, however, the plan is all an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of Queenslanders.

“This policy won’t prevent a single port development proposal and it won’t stop dredging in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area,” said Greenpeace Queensland campaigner Louise Matthiesson. “It’s a complete con for the Government to claim they are doing the right thing for the environment, it’s nothing more than greenwash.”

Jeff Seeney

Jeff Seeney, State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Minister

Greenpeace highlighted the fact that there are already proposals for around 40 million cubic metres of dredging along the Great Barrier Reef coast, and the ports strategy will allow all of that to go ahead.

The environmental organisation also argued that the five Priority Port Areas where development will be fast-tracked include large natural areas, like Keppel Bay near Yeppoon and Abbot Point near Bowen, which possess incredible natural beauty and environmental significance.

“The World Heritage Committee will be deciding next June whether to list the Reef as ‘in-danger’ and we’ll be making sure they understand what this policy really means for the future of the reef,” Matthiesson said.

In 2011-2012, the proposed PPDA ports handled 87 per cent of Queensland’s $54.5 billion in exports and were responsible for 98 per cent of the state’s imports.

Coal is still the predominant commodity export representing 63 per cent of volume followed by bauxite at 15 per cent and petroleum products at six per cent. The remaining 22 per cent is shared by metals and minerals, general cargo, agriculture and other products.

Seeney said the Newman Government would also continue the review of port governance and improve supply chain infrastructure coordination and delivery for sustained economic growth across the state’s ports network.

The draft Queensland Ports Strategy is open for public comment until December 13, 2013.