Abbot Point Coal Terminal.
Abbot Point Coal Terminal. Lee Constable

Abbott's dredge pledge has catch says environmental group

THE Abbott Government's pledge to stop dredge spoil dumping in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park may still allow up to 80% of dumping to go ahead, an environmental group has claimed.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Saturday said he had now acted on his promise of three months ago by ordering new regulations be created to put an end to dumping capital dredge spoil in the marine park.

Mr Hunt said it was a "significant step towards improving and protecting" the marine park for future generations and he was "now taking the next step to enshrine a ban in law.

But WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O'Gorman said while the ban was welcome, more than 80% of dumping in reef waters since 2010 had occurred within the larger World Heritage Area, not the marine park.

"A ban on the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is an important step, but to have a real impact we must move towards a complete halt to this damaging practice throughout the entire Reef World Heritage Area," he said.

While Mr Hunt's pledge has garnered support, the public was still waiting on a decision on the controversial Abbot Point project, which would see up to 1.7 million cubic metres of dredge spoil dumped on the nationally-listed Caley Valley wetlands.

Mr Hunt's decision will require changes to the marine park Act's regulations, with the marine park authority to start a public consultation on the changes "shortly" and a final decision expected to be made in March this year.