Please attribute these comments to a spokesperson from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority:
After consultation and a comprehensive assessment process, on 23 January 2019 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority granted a 10-year permit to North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation Ltd for maintenance dredging.
North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation Ltd also entered into an agreement with the Authority to continue investigating the possibility of avoiding or reducing the need for further disposal of dredge material at sea.
The project will be managed adaptively after each dredging campaign to ensure the best available information is used to inform future campaigns.
This is all set up through permit conditions and requirements including the need for environmental management plans, monitoring and key trigger points for evaluation.
Applications for maintenance dredging and disposal of maintenance dredge material within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park undergo extensive assessment looking at the social, economic, environmental and heritage impacts.
The 10-year permit allows a total of up to 756,553 cubic metres of maintenance dredge material to be disposed within a previously approved dredge spoil disposal site located in the Marine Park, plus a further 200,000 metres contingency for sediments deposited by extreme weather events such as cyclones.
A small proportion of maintenance dredging is permitted within the Marine Park (up to 33,509 cubic metres).
The works will occur over separate campaigns every 3 to 5 years, with the initial campaign being limited to up to 356,533 cubic metres of maintenance dredge spoil for disposal.
Most of the area that requires maintenance dredging is within the Port Exclusion Area. Only the departure channel is within the Marine Park.
The applicant’s peer reviewed sediment assessment investigated whether maintenance dredging could be avoided, reduced or beneficially reused. Due to the nature of the material, it found there to be limited beneficial reuse options.
Maintenance dredging ensures vessels can safely and reliably access ports and marinas, reducing the risk of accidents or grounding impacts on the Marine Park.
It differs from capital dredging, which involves excavating previously undisturbed areas of seabed to expand or create new shipping channels, berths or swing basins. Capital dredge material cannot be disposed of within the Marine Park.
Maintenance dredging last occurred at the Port of Hay Point in 2010. Sediment has accumulated in the area since this time, including from cyclone Debbie.