FEDERAL Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch has called for dredge spoil to be used to reclaim degraded land as a solution to preventing the pollution of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The Federal Government is proposing that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority collects up to $15 a cubic metre of dredge spoil dumped onto the reef from July 1.
Mr Entsch agreed with environmental groups and tourism operators who were angered by the plan, saying the proposal would do little to protect the sensitive marine park from pollution.
He said Cairns harbour was in desperate need of dredging to accommodate cruise liners and the spoil could be used to reclaim degraded land nearby.
“This is an issue I have expressed concern about for many years and I’m pleased to see environmental groups at last showing an interest in this matter,” he said.
“The cynical side of me wonders whether this sudden interest is more about the recent announcement to expand the channel, rather than solving specific environmental issues.”
Mr Entsch said authorities should be exploring the option of diverting dredge spoil to degraded land-based sites as part of a long-term rehabilitation and development plan that would ease the pressure on land availability.
“In many cases, the spoil is transported to land-based sites to recover land and create economic opportunities,” he said.
“For example in Brisbane, port facilities and industrial precincts have been established through the recovery of land that was previously degraded. There is no question the same could be done in Cairns. There are certainly significant areas of degradation that over time could benefit from dredge spoil.
“Given ours is a land-locked city, we need to find ways to free up land and capitalise on economic opportunities.
“That’s why we can’t let fees and illogical government regulations threaten the financial viability of initiatives such as the dredging of the channel, attracting more cruise ships and capitalising on a lucrative market.”
Mr Entsch said the governments’ management of pollution and sediment control was confusing and ineffective.
“It beggars belief that both the State and Federal governments provide both penalties and incentives in an effort to minimise topsoil and silt that flows into the river affecting the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.
“You then have that same State Government legislation that forces dredge spoil to be taken further out to sea and dumped on the reef and you’ve got the Federal Government imposing fees for people who do this.
“It makes no sense.”