15 Aug 2015


WWF-Australia today warned that attempts to have Cairns named as a ‘priority port’ would risk seeing Australia hauled back in front of the World Heritage Committee.

“The Reef 2050 Plan has been hailed as the main reason Australia avoided the embarrassment of an ‘in danger’ listing for the Reef,” said WWF Reef campaigner Richard Leck.

“One of the most significant promises in Reef 2050 is that, to protect the Reef, there will be only four ports earmarked for expansion as ‘priority ports’ - Townsville, Abbot Point, Gladstone, and Hay Point/Mackay,” he said. However, there is now a local campaign to have Cairns designated as a priority port under the Sustainable Port Development Bill, which is currently before the Queensland Parliament.

“If we backflip on our ports pledge we will be breaking a major commitment to the World Heritage Committee,” Mr Leck said.

“The Ports Bill will still enable Cairns to prosper and expand trade and tourism opportunities. Making Cairns into an industrial mega-port is not compatible with the city’s clean green image."

“It would be disastrous for Cairns and other tourism centres if the Reef is declared ‘in danger’ because of broken promises on ports."

“In a little over a year Australia must report back to the World Heritage Committee on the roll out of Reef 2050."

“That report will have a big red fail stamped on it if Australia has backflipped on port expansions."

“The Queensland Government introduced the Ports Bill to fulfil the Reef 2050 promises on ports."

“WWF calls on the Federal Government to stand up for the Reef 2050 Plan and publicly state that it is unacceptable to break our promises to UNESCO."

“Environment Minister Greg Hunt must make it clear where he stands to prevent promises he made in Germany just two months ago from being undermined,” Mr Leck said.

Australia’s Reef 2050 commitments on port development are so significant they were specifically highlighted in this year’s World Heritage Committee decision which states:

  • A number of commitments within the 2050 LTSP require translation into legislation including, among others, restrictions on port development and its associated activities such as the disposal of dredged material.
  • The World Heritage Committee welcomes … limiting capital dredging for the development of new or expansion of existing port facilities to within the regulated port limits of the major ports of Gladstone, Hay Point/Mackay, Abbott Point and Townsville...

WWF-Australia Media Contact:

Mark Symons, Communications Coordinator, 0400 985 571, msymons@wwf.org.au