Factors influencing the Region’s values
The 2008 scientific consensus statement on water quality148 concluded that implementation of the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (Qld) was responsible for reducing the extensive land clearing of the previous decades. This legislation was identified as a critical element in beginning to address the impacts of land use on Reef water quality that had been reported from the 1970s to the late 1990s. In 2013, the Queensland Government proposed changes to the Vegetation Management Act including repealing regulations that apply to clearing high value regrowth on freehold and Indigenous lands; allowing broadscale clearing for ‘high value’ intensive agricultural production; and promoting selfassessment of areas that contain remnant or high value regrowth.149 Risks associated with changes to the legislation include the potential intensification of coastal agricultural development, with subsequent increases in pollutant loads.150 The effect of these changes is unknown as the regulatory reform process is still underway.
Resource extraction activities in Queensland have continued to expand.
Mining The Great Barrier Reef catchment is rich in mineral resources and has long supported significant mining activity.151 Historically, there have been extensive small-scale mining operations through much of the catchment, including gold, tin, nickel and uranium mines.152,153 More recently, the continued and increasing global demand for coal154 has resulted in mine expansions, new mines and additional mine proposals within the catchment and in areas further inland. Production of saleable coal in Queensland has more than doubled since the early 1990s (Figure 6.10) and the Region is now associated with some of the world’s largest mines and coal ports155,156, along with the connecting infrastructure required to support them (Figure 6.3). The projected Queensland export volumes for coal in 2025 range from 79 to 185 million tonnes for thermal coal and 226 to 262 million tonnes for metallurgical coal.161 Over this period, coal production is projected to increase significantly in the Bowen, Surat and Galilee basins which export coal through the Great Barrier Reef.161 Coal exports affect the Region’s ecosystem and heritage values in two ways. The continued use of fossil fuels globally is the major driver of climate and ocean change, and servicing the export of coal is the major driver of port expansion along the Region’s coast and population growth in the catchment. Queensland has 98 per cent of Australia’s proven coal seam gas reserves and economic activity associated with the development of coal seam gas projects has grown substantially over the last decade (Figure 6.11). A 2012 report anticipates that Australia will become the world’s largest liquid natural gas exporter by 2020 with a projected export of between 25 and 33 million tonnes for Queensland.161 Curtis Island, within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, is the site for the world’s first project converting coal seam gas to liquefied natural gas.3
Figure 6.10 Production of saleable coal in Queensland, 1990–91 to 2012–13