On 31 January 2014, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Part Authority (GBRMPA) approved North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation’s (NQBP) application to dispose of dredge spoil within the Great Barrier Marine Park.

The Abbot Point capital dredging program (Project) which was approved by the Environmental Minister, Greg Hunt, on 11 October 2013 (see blog post of 13 December 2013), involves the removal of 3 million cubic meters of spoil in respect of Terminals 0, 2 and 3.

In reaching the decision to approve the proposed dumping, GBRMPA noted that:
  • allowing the Project to proceed as planned would help contain development to existing ports,
  •  the strict environmental conditions imposed on the Project by the federal government would help to protect the reef, and
  •  it would support the use of an alternative site if one is found to be equal to, or better, in terms of environmental or heritage outcomes.

The approved disposal site is located approximately 25 kilometres east-north-east of the Port of Abbot Point, while the investigation zone being assessed for alternative locations is located 20 to 30 kilometres from the area being dredged.
Nevertheless, all dredge spoil is required to be tested by accredited laboratories to ensure that there are no contaminants in the dredge spoil prior to the commencement of dumping. No contaminants have yet been identified.
NQBP has welcomed the approval and has committed to abiding by the strict environmental conditions.

For further information, please contact Jay Leary, Partner, Roger Allingham, Solicitor, Brisbane or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.