Dredge spoil court battle stalled by onshore option

A COURT battle over the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has been put on hold while decisions are made about onshore dumping.

A trial was set to go ahead in October between the Mackay Conservation Group and the Environment Minister Greg Hunt over the controversial decision to allow 3 million cubic metres of spoil, dredged from the Abbot Point coal terminal expansion project, to be dumped in the marine park.

However, government departments have since spoken out in favour of a dumping the dredge spoil on land.

Mackay Conservation Group, which the Environmental Defender's Office represented in Brisbane's Federal Court on Thursday, applied for the trial to be adjourned until the government decided whether the dumping would occur on land or at sea.

Barrister Saul Holt said it would not be able to proceed to trial because the case was based on the approval to dump in the ocean.

"We would be otherwise embarking on an expensive five-day trial in this court where the fundamental issue, which is being litigated in the trial, would be subject to a new decision making process of (the Environment Minister)," he said.

"Unusually in this case what we have is a position where public statements of all the people involved indicate absolute support for the land based dumping option rather than the dumping option in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area."

Federal Court judge Justice Darryl Rangiah said there was an element of "pie in the sky" because it wasn't known whether or not the dumping on land option would be approved.

North Queensland Bulk Ports objected to the adjournment while the Minister's office was neutral. The case was adjourned for review on October 31. The trial dates were also vacated.

Mackay Conservation Group co-ordinator Ellen Roberts was pleased the matter was adjourned and said no one really knew where the dredge spoil was going.

"We're asking (Deputy Premier) Jeff Seeney and North Queensland Bulk Ports to come clean about their plans for this expansion," she said.

"We've seen a lot of speculation in the media, but nothing concrete as yet."

Premier Campbell Newman described the Abbot Point Beneficial Reuse Strategy as a "win-win" and asked the Federal Government to expedite the plan.

The Newman government will use a "commercial arrangement" with the entity controlling the dredge material, which could be North Queensland Bulk Ports.


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