SCIENTIFIC VOICE: Marine biologist Dr Brett Kettle paid a flying visit to Airlie Beach and Bowen this week to discuss the dredging debate at Abbot Point.
SCIENTIFIC VOICE: Marine biologist Dr Brett Kettle paid a flying visit to Airlie Beach and Bowen this week to discuss the dredging debate at Abbot Point.

Scientist comes to Airlie to talk about dredging

A MARINE biologist with more than 30 years experience in the field of dredging, paid a visit to Airlie Beach and Bowen this week, to meet with various individuals and groups concerned about Abbot Point.

Dr Brett Kettle has worked on "all kinds of different environmental problems".

He wrote the marina guidelines for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), produced the first software for mapping oil spills within the marine park and is currently an expert witness in the court case surrounding the grounding of the Chinese coal carrier, Shen Neng.

Dr Kettle says he has worked in equal parts for both government and industry and he is adamant his opinion can't be bought.

His opinion of Abbot Point is that "dredging can be done without too much damage to the environment".

Responding to Whitsunday business operators' fears of being sandwiched between far-reaching plumes from ports both north and south, Dr Kettle said the furthest ecological effects of dredging had ever been seen away from the dredge sites was 10km.

"My point is, there's so much misinformation," he said.

"You are also sandwiched between Papua New Guinea and Tasmania, but that doesn't mean you are over-run by rascals and people cutting down trees."

Dr Kettle described his time in the Whitsundays as "frustrating".

"I met people today who are telling me things that are absolutely not true and it's only because of the things they've read and been told," he said.

Dr Kettle conceded there may have been a degradation in water quality here since 2008, but he stressed people needed to look at what else had happened over that time rather than simply focusing on expansion of the Hay Point coal terminal to the south.

"Three out of four years we've had floods and the amount of sediment those floods bring down our river systems is enormous compared to dredging," he said.

Nonetheless, Dr Kettle conceded there were faults on both sides of the dredge debate. He said proponents such as NQBP needed to do a better job of explaining the data and on the other side of the coin, environmentalists needed to focus on the real threats to the reef.

"We can't get to the fire for all the smoke," he said.

"We're likely at worst to get a temporary effect out to 10km, full stop, but we're putting all of our resources into this rather than addressing bigger, more important issues.

"The parties - both sides of the table, have to sit down and be real. Exaggeration and misinformation has no place on either side of the debate."


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