Minister delays decision on Abbot Point dredging proposal
THE Federal Environment Minister has delayed any decision on the Abbot Point 3 million tonne dredging proposal until December 13 this year.
A document filed by the Environment Department showed a decision, which was not announced at the time, was officially made on Monday.
The decision was made the same day Mr Hunt also deferred a decision on the Arrow Energy LNG plant at Gladstone, and the future of both projects may not be decided until mid-December.
Mr Hunt said in a statement the delay would give him time to consider the state government's recently-released ports strategy and the Great Barrier Reef strategic assessment.
It is understood the minister will also visit Queensland in the near future, with stops at Gladstone and Mackay likely to be included.
He said despite the additional delay to both decisions, the government has "moved to speed up the process", and promised the decision would be made "in line with the environmental law".
While environmentalists have welcomed the delay, they have again called on the minister to completely rule out both proposals, amid fears of the potential effects on the Great Barrier Reef.
WWF Australia spokesman Richard Leck said the decision was a sign Mr Hunt was "prepared to fully consider the implications for the reef".
But he said the delay gave Mr Hunt a chance to rule Abbot Point out altogether, following the release of scientific reports showing the impacts of dredging could be more far-reaching than thought only six months ago.
"The government's own reports show that the harmful impacts of dredging have been considerably underestimated," Mr Leck said.
"Once all impacts are fully considered, we believe the government will have little choice but to eventually reject this application for Abbot Point and rule out Reef dumping altogether."
Both projects were listed as potential "projects of concern" in Environment Department documents given to the United Nations World Heritage Committee months ago.
The North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, which is behind the Abbot Point dredging project, said it welcomed the decision to delay a decision, but would not make further comment.