THE Queensland Government may push for several ports to be removed from the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said there was a case to move the boundaries of the 20,000 sq km World Heritage Area to exclude Gladstone Harbour.
He said he would have a meeting with Gladstone Ports Corporation, which has publicly pushed for the boundaries to be moved.
“If there is going to be a continual misrepresentation of those boundaries then I think that will build a case for the realignment of the boundaries,” Mr Seeney told reporters in Gladstone.
“It is obviously a misrepresentation to talk about Gladstone Harbour being part of the Great Barrier Reef.”
Mr Seeney said he would consider pushing for other ports to be excised from the area, but hadn’t seen any such proposals.
“I wouldn’t rule out looking at other ports, but they haven’t been raised with me,” Mr Seeney said, adding the decision would ultimately rest with the Federal Government.
“The ports were here a long time before the heritage listing.”
Environmentalists were quick to express their concerns at the move.
WWF Australia spokesman Sean Hoobin said the World Heritage Area was more than just coral reefs.
“Shallow-water habitats such as seagrass beds, estuaries and near-shore islands are part of the heart and soul of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and its values,” Mr Hoobin said.
“They cannot simply be excised by a sleight of the pen, to facilitate development.”
Australian Conservation Foundation climate change manager Tony Mohr was alarmed at the Government’s intentions.
“If the boundaries are allowed to be changed, it sets a bad precedent for other World Heritage areas in the north and undermines the whole protection status,” Mr Mohr said.
“World Heritage protection is supposed to be the highest protection in the world and to undercut it would be dangerous.”
No one from Gladstone Port Corporation was available to comment but chief executive Leo Zussino has previously said every major Queensland port except Brisbane and Bundaberg is within the World Heritage Area.
“We shouldn’t confuse the World Heritage Area with World Heritage values that were to be protected, which is the Great Barrier Reef,” he said last year.
“The Great Barrier Reef doesn’t come into Gladstone Harbour, nor does the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.”
Comment was being sought from federal Environment Minister Tony Burke.