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Environmentalists call for dredging halt, independent testing in Gladstone harbour

The causes of the apparent ecosystem collapse in Gladstone harbour can only be satisfactorily addressed by a halt to the dredging of the harbour and a genuinely independent testing regime.

Gladstone harbour borders the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area and Curtis Island, on which four huge liquefied natural gas plants will be built, is part of that WHA.

Friends of the Earth spokesperson Drew Hutton said neither the Queensland government nor the federal government were trusted by most people to get to the bottom of the problem because they had too strong a vested interest in seeing these projects go ahead.

"So far all we have seen from the Bligh government is flawed water quality monitoring, constant assertions that the problems of marine species' deaths and fish disease have nothing to do with developments in the harbour and the desire to see developments proceed at breakneck speed.

"The Gladstone Port Corporation's dredging program is one of the biggest in our history and we need to know if dredging up historic layers of industrial pollutants as well as the acid sulphate soils that are known to be in the area are linked with this catastrophe.

"The massive expansion of coal ports along the north Queensland coast also present a dire threat to the Great Barrier Reef."

Mr Hutton said Queenslanders must also see Gladstone as merely the end point of a potentially disastrous series of developments that were given too hasty approvals by the state and federal governments.

"Coal seam gas is, in all likelihood, linked with the problems in Gladstone harbour but you can follow the trail of destruction and possible catastrophe back to the tens of thousands of hectares of bushland being cleared for gas pipelines and the long-term destruction of underground water.

"It is only people power that will force recalcitrant governments to act responsibly to bring the coal seam gas industry under control and to act to protect the Great Barrier Reef from high-impact development.."

Mr Hutton said Friends of the Earth would be working with the fishing industry and residents of the Gladstone area to demand positive action by government.

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