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Tuesday, 21 June 1994
Page: 1784

Senator WOODLEY —My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories. In relation to the Port Hinchinbrook development, is it the case that many of the popular tourist destinations in the area already receive the maximum allowable number of visitors? Does the minister agree that the proposed Hinchinbrook development, which involves a 250-boat marina, would require an increase in visitation to levels that are unsustainable or would force out existing tourist operators, or both? Is the minister aware that some local tourism and development authorities in the area have come out against the Port Hinchinbrook development? Is the minister of the opinion that the development would seriously degrade the natural values of the Hinchinbrook Channel world heritage area?

Senator FAULKNER —My portfolio's concerns about the possible impact of the Port Hinchinbrook marina development on the world heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef have been conveyed, as I think Senator Woodley knows, to the Queensland coordinator general's department. My department's submission, along with many others from concerned individuals, is being assessed and considered by Queensland authorities. Queensland government officials came to Canberra on 14 June to discuss the Commonwealth's concern. I understand that Queensland authorities are doing more work to assess the impact of the project on the area's world heritage values and that an environmental management and monitoring plan for the project is being negotiated with the developer.

  My department's main concerns relate to the potential impact of the dredging on the marine fauna and flora in the Hinchinbrook Channel and of increased tourist activities in the sensitive reef and rainforest communities of the region. My department has appointed a consultant to review the world heritage values of the area which surrounds the marina and also to report on any world heritage impacts the development may have and on any management procedures that may be required to protect world heritage features.

  It is premature for the government to consider any use of Commonwealth powers to protect world heritage values. However, as I have said to Senator Woodley before in answer to a previous question on this development, I can assure the Senate that the government will act to protect world heritage values of the Hinchinbrook Channel and the surrounding areas if this proposal does not take sufficient measures to ensure that these values are not threatened. I expect the work being undertaken by the consultant that has been appointed by my department to be concluded within the time scale of a month. I am hopeful that we will receive at least a draft report on these matters from the consultant by the end of June.