One of Australia’s most breathtaking natural landscapes, the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest, richest and most diverse coral reef.
Thankfully, as a World Heritage Area, it’s also one of the world’s best-managed marine parks.
North Queensland Bulk Ports has three ports within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. As such, the reef’s protection is of paramount importance to us and an integral factor in our operations planning and development. We take every step to ensure this iconic Australian landmark survives and thrives for future generations.
Ports have operated in the Great Barrier Reef region for over 150 years. In fact, Queensland ports have a demonstrable long and successful history of responsible environmental management in operating near areas of high conservation value.
In 1981, when the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area was established at the low water mark, it was acknowledged that ports would be located within the World Heritage Area. This was, and still is, seen as appropriate and manageable because the World Heritage Convention doesn’t exclude human activities or industrial activities from operating within World Heritage properties. The fact that all our port areas are outside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, located inshore many kilometres from mid-shelf and outer coral reefs, influences this decision.
Exemplary maintenance of port access and operations is critical to ensuring sustainability of the Great Barrier Reef region, as well as the safety of our people. All our ports have advanced environmental management and monitoring programs in place. We continue to invest considerable time and funds in ensuring our ports implement leading practices associated with port operation and maintenance activities.
The Australian and Queensland governments’ Reef 2050 Plan was released in 2015 and provides an overarching framework for protecting and managing the reef until 2050. Coral bleaching is of particular importance to us. We are pleased to work in partnership with key stakeholders as part of the Reef 2050 Advisory Committee and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (GBRMPA) Reef Summit to contribute to this critical area.
Our Seagrass Monitoring Program is one of the largest of its kind the world. James Cook University scientists undertake monitoring and reporting, including assessment of seagrass community health indicators. Our program aligns with broader reef seagrass monitoring initiatives, provides linkages to the Queensland-wide network of habitat assessment and management, and covers the coastline of all our ports.
Under NQBP’s guidance, our ports are also in the process of developing a long-term sediment management framework in consultation with Reef 2050 stakeholders, government and research agencies. We have also commissioned a range of research studies on the impacts and opportunities associated with port development near the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. All tasks have been undertaken to highlight the strong environmental and sustainability credentials of ports and to demonstrate that port activities have and can continue to occur adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef without impact.
Our shipping channels are as important as roads and railways are, to our national economy. Dredging to maintain navigable depths for ships is necessary for safety, and is controlled through appropriate environmental management plans, extensive environmental monitoring and close consultation with the community.
We remain committed to continual environmental monitoring and evaluation and improvement. We recognise that port operation and strategic growth can continue, if we ensure that environmental values in and around our port areas are properly considered and managed.
Data from our monitoring programs are used in Great Barrier Reef report cards and will continue to aid us in confidently managing the interaction between the operations of our ports and the natural environment in which we are proud to be situated.
That's why we've supported the Mackay Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership since it began in 2014, providing both data and funding to help produce the annual healthy rivers to reef report card.
The report has received strong support, and we will look to further build on the outcomes as the monitoring programs mature.