This statement was originally published on 24 February 2019 and updated on 27 February 2019 with some additional information about the testing undertaken and the disposal site.
Please attribute these comments to a Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority spokesperson:
“After a 60-day public comment period and a comprehensive assessment process, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority granted a 10-year permit to North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation Ltd (NQBP) on the 23 January 2019 for maintenance dredging.
“Maintenance dredging is necessary to remove sediments that have built up in existing channels in order to maintain navigation depths and ensure vessels can safely and reliably access ports and marinas. Without maintenance dredging, the Marine Park is left at a greater risk from accidents or grounding impacts of stranded vessels.
“Sediment has naturally accumulated in the Port of Hay Point since maintenance dredging last occurred in 2010, including from cyclone Debbie. Most of the area requiring dredging is in the Port Exclusion Area. Only the departure channel is within the Marine Park.
“The material excavated as a result of maintenance dredging, known as spoil material, is already present in the ecosystem, is naturally-occurring and composed of silt/clay, sand and gravel.
“This material was sampled and tested for contaminants. The Marine Park Authority assessed the test results, which confirmed the material didn’t exceed acceptable levels outlined in national dredging guidelines and was suitable for disposal at sea.
"The permit allows North Queensland Bulk Ports to dispose of this sediment within a previously approved and defined dredge spoil disposal site
“The site is approximately 14.5 square kilometres in a 344,000 square kilometre Marine Park — in other words, the disposal site less than 0.1% of the Marine Park’s total area. The spoil material will not be disposed of on coral reefs.
“The assessment included a peer reviewed sediment analysis of NQBP’s proposal concluding that on-land disposal of the dredge material and reuse options were not viable because of the nature of the material.
“All applications for maintenance dredging and disposal of maintenance dredge material within the Marine Park undergo extensive assessment of any potential environmental, heritage, social and economic impacts.
"The assessment process for the Hay Point proposed maintenance dredging included a 60-day public consultation period from mid-June to mid-August 2018 – seven submissions were received.
"The specific process for assessing the permit application, statement of reasons and the assessment report is outlined on the Authority’s website.
“Maintenance dredging 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.
"In drafting the legislation which subsequently banned the disposal of capital dredge material in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in 2015, the Authority recognised the ongoing need for maintenance dredging at existing port and marina facilities – for the safety and protection of both the Marine Park as well as its users."
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Media team | (07) 4750 0846 | firstname.lastname@example.org