Battle continues over Great Barrier Reef

THE battle over the Great Barrier Reef and dredging at the coal port of Abbot Point is continuing to take twists and turns with a court challenge and a State Government counter-campaign both launched in the past week.

Funded by a raft of public donations, the North Queensland Conservation Council has officially filed an Administrative Appeal Tribunal against the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) over its approval of the dredging project.

Jo-Anne Bragg from the Environmental Defenders Office of Queensland said the case would argue the approval of the dumping of three million cubic metres of dredge spoil was not given according to the authority's own criteria for sea dumping.

While the authority did not respond, the proponent of the port expansion, North Queensland Bulk Ports (NQBP), hit out at the legal challenge.

A spokeswoman for NQBP said it was "incredibly disappointing" that interest groups had used donations on the case, rather than spending that money "on the real issues impacting the reef".

Meanwhile, the Queensland Government has launched a campaign against "misinformation" on the reef, which has drawn the support of the resources industry and ire of environmentalists.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell launched the "Reef Facts" campaign on Sunday, saying "false and extreme claims" about the state of the reef could damage Queensland's reputation if they were not addressed.

The campaign includes a website and several fact sheets which reiterate some threats to the reef's environment including sediment run-off, crown of thorns starfish and climate change.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche has welcomed the campaign, saying the state's reputation was "being trashed by activists" intent on stopping coal and gas exports.

He said the "relentless demonisation of essential dredging" not only ignored the scientific evidence, but also threatened the future of the resources industry he represents.

But Australian Marine Conservation Society reef campaigner Felicity Wishart said the government's new campaign was itself "misinformation".

She said if the government was protecting the reef, "they wouldn't need a campaign to allay the public's fears over dredging, dumping and port expansion".

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