Aerial of the Great Barrier Reef.
Aerial of the Great Barrier Reef. C Veron

Companies dump dredge in the Great Barrier Reef

TWO Queensland port corporations paid less than $100,000 to dump nearly 2.5 million cubic metres of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area last year.

Under the Federal Government's Sea Dumping Act, companies can apply for permits to dump dredge spoil and other things such as marine vessels at sea.

In the last financial year, the Environment Department handed out 14 approvals for sea dumping, 10 of which were for dredge spoil to be dumped around the country.

Of those approved, three applications came from the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation and the Port of Townsville, to dump a total of 2.44 million cubic metres of dredged sediment in the World Heritage Area.

The approvals were for new dumps at the Townsville and Mackay ports under the Sea Dumping Act and one at Hay Point port under the approval of the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority.

In total, the 10 sea dumping application approved would see more than 100,000,000 cubic metres of dredge spoil dumped at sea in Australian waters.

The majority of that dumping would be conducted on the Western Australian coast, as part of massive off-shore gas projects near Onslow and Port Hedland.

Under the Sea Dumping Act, any dredge spoil dumping application involving more than 100,000 cubic metres can only be approved if the company pays a fee costing $23,500.

Sea Dumping approvals for dredged material under 100,000 cubic metres costs a company only $10,000.

For the four approvals in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, each company paid the fee, totalling $80,500, as the Hay Point proposal was for only 17,000 cubic metres.

The Federal Environment Department did not turn down any applications for sea dumping permits in 2011-12.