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Australia Authorizing Destruction of Great Barrier Reef
18 November 2013 - Australia continues to give the go-ahead for the development of new coal and natural gas ports within the Great Barrier Reef, and thus the continued destruction of the reef seems inevitable.

The World Heritage Committee may declare the Great Barrier Reef a ‘World Heritage Site in Danger’.

Like us, I am sure many of you are asking, how can Australia let this happen?

THE last time I went scuba diving in Port Phillip Bay was about two years ago, Greg Hunt writes.

December 01, 2007 Like anyone who has had the privilege of exploring this serene, astonishingly beautiful marine environment, the experience affected me profoundly.

For those Melburnians who live on the perimeter of its vast shoreline, and for the many more who take part in the annual pilgrimage to the summer playgrounds on the Mornington Peninsula, Port Phillip Bay holds an almost sacred significance.

Living on the Mornington Peninsula close to the bay, I am accustomed to the way my home town is transformed each year with the coming of the warmer weather.

A lively parade of young families and individuals enjoying a day on the beach or out on the water are a constant feature of summer.

The warm weather is here once again but this year there is a large and very black cloud menacing the horizon. With the Victorian Government intent on a January start for its plan to dredge 23 million cubic metres of sand, silt and toxic sludge from the bay, there is a growing sense of foreboding on the Mornington Peninsula.

With the local economy, particularly on the southern peninsula, reliant on the tourist dollar, it is abundantly clear that the peninsula will bear the brunt of the negative impact of channel deepening.

The two years of significant turbidity forecast as a result of the dredging will inevitably have an impact on local tourist operators, particularly the recreational dive industry. Two years of diminished returns would be enough to damage many of these businesses irrevocably.

The State Government's own assessment of the channel deepening project found that dive operators and other businesses reliant on the bay will lose almost $19 million in income as a direct result of the dredging.

Despite this, there is no provision to compensate these small business owners for the damage that channel deepening will inflict upon their livelihoods.

The Mornington Peninsula's tourism operators will therefore become the innocent victims of a process over which they have no control. To exclude them from any hope of compensation other than via a long and costly court battle is unjust and completely unacceptable.

It is not only the immediate short-term impact of channel deepening that must be considered.

Tourists who experience murky waters and dirty beaches during the years of dredging may never return to the Mornington Peninsula.

The damage to the peninsula's reputation for pristine beaches and sparkling waters may linger long after the physical effects of dredging have receded.

While I accept that the project is broadly inevitable, I have written twice now to Premier John Brumby, seeking assurances that the State Government will address these concerns.

I have yet to receive the courtesy of a reply.

I will also write to the new federal Environment Minister -- to highlight the deficiencies in the way the State Government intends to dispose of the spoil dredged up during the project.

I am deeply alarmed that the state has moved to give this project the green light without adequately tackling the issue of the disposal of toxic sludge dredged from the mouth of the Yarra.

The Port of Melbourne Corporation intends to dump this sludge -- which is laden with heavy metals and other contaminants -- in the centre of Port Phillip Bay.

As yet there appears to be no certainty about how the resulting toxic plume will behave and where it will settle.

The main reason given for dumping this toxic sludge in the bay is that it would be too expensive to dump it in landfill. This is utterly unacceptable.

There should be no cut-price option for a pollution problem of this magnitude.

There are also plans to dump spoil at a second site in the waters off Mt Martha.

This site is one of the most important snapper breeding grounds in the bay. It is an important recreational asset for local residents and tourists alike and must not be harmed.

These issues could have and should have been thrashed out satisfactorily during the independent panel's inquiry into the supplementary environmental effects statement.

Instead, the State Government chose to hinder a full exploration of these important issues by imposing a ban on the cross-examination of witnesses.

As a result, those of us who love the bay can have no real confidence that the channel deepening project will not leave it permanently scarred. The project has not undergone the thorough, rigorous and objective investigation essential for a project of this scale and potential impact.

The State Government must address all outstanding environmental concerns before pushing ahead with dredging.

In addition, it must institute a Peninsula recovery plan to deal with the project's inevitable fall-out on the Mornington Peninsula.

A starting point could be a dedicated fund with money set aside to compensate local businesses.

It is only fair that these small operators receive some peace of mind and an assurance that they will not be sent to the wall by the state's channel deepening.

Greg Hunt is the federal MP for Flinders, a seat that includes Mornington Peninsula.

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The Australian Drinking Water Guidelines have recently been updated with the revision of Chapter 8: Drinking Water Treatment Chemicals.






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