Larger photos and notes below.
Loads of people are discussing the decision to allow the dredging of Abbott Point. Following is Charlie McColl's historical take from a project much closer to home.
LOOKING AT ABBOTT POINT BUT REMEMBERING NELLY BAY
This is what can happen when GBRMPA is so conflicted and constrained by its parliamentary masters that it knowingly and even recklessly approves projects that it cannot possibly police or discipline.
The Federal Environment Minister, Senator "whatever-it-takes" Graham Richardson, personally approved this disaster-not-even-waiting-to-happen after a flying visit to the undisturbed beach and headland in the previous year or so.
He didn't know, or willfully ignored the fact, that Magnetic Island was already World Heritage listed as part of the GBR WH Area and that he and the GBRMPA were ultimately responsible for the care and ahemmm, "preservation", of its outstanding universal values.
So confident or blind was the GBRMPA that it didn't bother to secure from the developer the legally mandatory indemnity insurance (mandatory but didn't do it!), to the value of $20 million, necessary should the project and its backers fail - so they had to sort of deny that they ever needed it. The minister had no idea and soon he was gone - to Channel Nine or whatever.
The 1992 Whitehouse 'Review' of the project and the "procedures followed by GBRMPA in arriving at the decision to issue permit G88/462..." and also " . . to investigate specific criticism and allegations made by "Island Voice" and by Democrat Leader Senator John Coulter against the Authority and its Chairman, Mr Graeme Kelleher over management of the project" - came to nought, as could only be expected. Why would government want to make any other finding? Government cannot find itself at fault.
It wasn't always so. At a joint press release by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, and the Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, in June 1979, the two leaders confirmed that it was the policies of their respective governments to prohibit any drilling on the reef or any drilling or mining which could damage the Reef - "Reef" meaning everything contained within the geographical boundaries of the GBRWHA - things like the form and structure of the individual reefs, the continental shelf, the cays and continental islands, the hydrology, the corals and other invertebrates, the vertebrates, the algae, sea grasses and mangroves and the beaches that form the coastal boundary.
"Both the Premier and the Prime Minister affirmed that the basic policy intention of both governments was to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef AREA be recognised and PRESERVED as an important feature of Queensland's and Australia's heritage." (my emphasis)
Oh how the mighty have lowered the bar.
You will notice that the quarry on Bright Point is completely open to the elements and only a few hay bales "filter" the runoff. Other photos show the plume of brown water carried in the current of the incoming tide straight around Hawkings Point to Picnic Bay - demonstrating the hydrodynamics there.
In the 24 years since, every bit of sludge and sediment and fertilizer and septic runoff from the catchment of Gustav Creek and the occupied marina (no 'liveaboards allowed unless they are living there!), has passed through the harbour, picked up some of the pump-out sediment in the excavated channel outside the harbour (from 1999-2001, see 2nd pic) and drifted it off across the Nelly Bay fringing reef towards Picnic Bay.
The changed hydrodynamics of the shallow reef flat are now causing continuous beach erosion immediately outside the enclosed space. GBRMPA totally denies such effects to this day. They don't want to know and will not accept that ongoing management and policing are still their responsibility.
In Nelly Bay, whatever in your wildest dreams could go wrong, did go wrong and are still going wrong. In my opinion, this is how Abbott Point will end up.
(Note for 2nd photo) By 27 November 2000, with plenty of Queensland Government money now behind it, earthworks were seriously underway. The central section of this excavation (behind the tall crane in the foreground) remains part of the GBR Marine Park, yes true, marine park - the whole, including the Island behind, is World Heritage listed. This was a beach and reef flat with intact Aboriginal material culture in a scatter through the middle of it.
A major debate/discussion about this vitally important matter affecting the reef can be seen here: