United Nations officials are in Australia seeking answers on possible threats to the world heritage Great Barrier Reef from local development.
The UNESCO team is looking at whether new ports and shipping development for the Australian mining boom can be done without damaging the delicate ecosystem.
The UNESCO investigation follows a report, prepared by John Tanzer, ex-CEO of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), which claimed that a coal and gas boom are threatening the Reef’s heritage title.
Australian Wilderness Society spokesman Gavan McFadzean says greater controls on mining and port developments are needed.
“In particular, the far northern section – north of Cairns, where we’ve got the opportunity to get it right because there’s not the development hubs there at the moment, but they’re planned to be,” he said.
“With the far northern section of the Great Barrier Reef, we’ve got the opportunity to maintain at least one part of the Great Barrier Reef in absolute mint condition.
“The key threat that’s emerging right now is a very significant mining boom-driven port infrastructure, increased shipping through the Great Barrier Reef, the impact of the mining boom.
“In particular the coal mining boom on the Great Barrier Reef and the need for the strategic assessment to bring that mining boom development under control.”
Last year, a Chinese ship damaged reefs and leaked oil after grounding. Dredging by mining companies has come under attack for their impact on fish. And a first report card on water quality in the Great Barrier Reef has found pesticides used in agriculture are causing significant problems for the reef, such as destroying sea-grass beds.
Local tourism operators are warning that over-confidence and apathy could cost the Great Barrier Reef its ranking as a ‘natural wonder of the world.’
Watch ABC Australia report on how mining development is causing concern:
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