Mixed reactions to UNESCO report

REACTIONS to the recent UNESCO report about threats to the Great Barrier Reef have been mixed in the Whitsunday region, which straddles the world heritage listed location but also sits on the edge of a resource boom.

The UNESCO report's findings indicate that "should some of the most threatening developments proceed further towards consent, it is recommended that the world heritage committee considers the possibility of listing the property as being in danger."

"[Australia should] not permit any new port development or associated infrastructure outside of the existing and long-established major port areas within or adjoining the property," the report says.

Whitsunday Regional Council has welcomed UNESCO's recommendation for a long-term sustainable development plan, but not at the expense of projects in the final stages of approval such as the expansion of Abbot Point.

Council's mayor Jennifer Whitney said council was particularly disappointed at the federal environment minister's announcement on Tuesday, suspending the Alpha Coal Project and ultimately affecting the port's growth.

Cr Whitney says Abbot Point is an existing development that sits outside the GBR marine park and its expansion should therefore be given the green light.

"I urge the federal government to ensure that our local economy is not damaged by stemming progress in this area. The tourism and mining industries are pillars of our economy and infrastructure developments such as Abbot Point form the backbone of our region. It is crucial to the future prosperity of our region that the expansion of the port occurs," Cr Whitney said.

Tourism and Enterprise Whitsundays chief executive Peter O'Reilly agrees, pointing out that Abbot Point is a naturally deep harbour, which does not require dredging and other environmentally challenging work, meaning less impact on the reef. He says the idea that more ships through the reef will equal more accidents is a "complete furphy".

"There's more planes flying in the sky than ever before and that hasn't equalled more accidents," he said.

"However obviously we will need to ensure that our resource and transport sector follow best practice to maintain the reef for future generations and ensure a sustainable tourism industry."


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