Senate inquiry hears of Reef oversight shortfalls

Fish of many different species - and human visitors - meet at the Lighthouse Bommie on the Great Barrier Reef.
Fish of many different species - and human visitors - meet at the Lighthouse Bommie on the Great Barrier Reef. Supplied

ENVIRONMENTALISTS in central Queensland have renewed concerns about the effects of a handover of federal environmental approvals to the Queensland Government on the Great Barrier Reef.

The handover of Commonwealth approval powers is already underway; with many stakeholders concerned it removes a key oversight function of the federal government.

Organisers of both the Capricorn Conservation Council and Keppel and Fitzroy Delta Alliance raised their concerns with a Senate inquiry hearing in Mackay on Tuesday.

CCC co-rdinator Michael McCabe told the inquiry he was worried the handover could see more local councils forced to deal with approvals of major projects.

He said many councils had neither the resources nor expertise to deal with many complex industrial developments, particularly those councils on the state's coast.

Mr McCabe also raised recent state reforms of native vegetation laws and land management as potentially undoing much work completed by farmers and beef producers in central Queensland to minimise sediment run-off.

KAFDA co-ordinator Ginny Gerlach also told the inquiry local residents remained concerned the Abbott Government had not ruled out a coal port proposed for the Fitzroy Delta.

Despite the window for state government approvals having lapsed, Ms Gerlach said the proposal had remained on the Federal Government books, and as such no guarantee was given it would not go ahead.

She said it was found by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to have had extreme risks for the largest delta in the reef World Heritage Area, and that no similar projects should be allowed to go ahead.

While proponents Mitchell Group have largely abandoned that port in favour of a similar proposal at Hay Point, Ms Gerlach said local residents were still waiting on such a guarantee from Canberra.

The inquiry continues on Wednesday with hearings in Townsville.

Topics:  capricorn conservation council great barrier reef senate inquiry

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