Abbot Point
Abbot Point Contributed

Ports bill will not impact existing developments

PROPOSED new ports laws will not stop dredging inside declared port zones within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

A public briefing into the proposed Ports Bill, which was introduced to parliament on Tuesday, heard on Wednesday dredging would still be allowed within the Priority Port Development Areas at Abbot Point, Gladstone, Hay Point Mackay, and Townsville.

The bill will ban dredging outside PPDAs within, or next to, the GBRWHA - but not inside declared port zones.

State Development Department property and planning group executive director Sally Noonan confirmed to the Parliamentary State Development Committee dredging would still be legal within the ports.

She also confirmed the bill would not impact existing port developments.

While the Brisbane Port is expected to have the priority port classification in the future, the Rockhampton Port will not.

While industry groups have supported the proposed bill it has come under fire from environmentalists who claim it will do nothing for the reef.

The Queensland Resource Council chief Michael Roche said the bill would increase certainty for operators while increasing protection for the environment.

"The minerals and energy sector has been working with many stakeholders to ensure industry will continue to operate alongside the reef while upholding the best social, economic and environmental standards," he said.

"The Queensland Ports Strategy puts more than 99% of the World Heritage Area off limits and the remaining, less than 1%, constitutes existing port precincts that are vital to Queensland communities."

However, Australian Marine Conservation Society campaign director Felicity Wishart said the bill failed to better protect the reef.

"The new Ports Bill fails to rule out any currently proposed new dredging, the dumping of dredge spoil in the Reef's waters and is silent on maintenance dredging across the region," she said.

"If passed, this bill will do nothing to allay concerns about the risk to the reef from massive port expansion, dredging and dumping, but it will increase the chance of the World Heritage site being put on the 'in-danger list'."