Great Barrier Reef

This campaign focussed on the Abott Point coal port and Glandstone Harbour gas hubs and the threats they pose to the Great Barrier Reef.
Stop the approvals to dredge and dump at Abbot Point


The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef ecosystem on our blue planet, representing about 10% of all the world’s coral reefs. It is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is dearly loved by locals and visitors alike. Spanning 2,300km along the Queensland coast, the Great Barrier Reef’s 3,000 coral reef systems contain a huge diversity of marine plants and animals, such as sea turtles, reef fish, sharks, hard and soft corals and migrating whales. It supports a $6 billion tourism industry, recreational and commercial fishing and represents a unique way of life for coastal communities along the Reef coast. The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from rapid industrialisation. AMCS has a long, proud history of fighting for the Great Barrier Reef. We played a critical role in establishing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World Heritage Area. We’re still there every step of the way asking the Queensland and Australian Governments to make decisions in the best interest of the Reef and its communities, rather than deals with the mining companies and big developers. The future of the Reef hangs in the balance. Big decisions are being made that will have a lasting impact and ultimately determine if our Reef survives and thrives.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world. But it is under threat from the most widespread, rapid and damaging set of industrial developments in Queensland’s history. The Australian Government has approved the world’s biggest coal port at Abbot Point, 50 km from the Whitsunday Islands. Right now, we’ve got the environmental disaster of Gladstone Harbour, where three gas hubs have turned Curtis Island, the largest island in the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, into an industrial nightmare. Shockingly, 45 million tonnes of seabed was dredged up. Some was dumped into the ocean and the rest into a bunded wall that leaked. It looks like the dredging brought out heavy metals in the sediments, triggering toxic algal blooms, causing local fishers to get crook and causing the death of our defenceless ocean wildlife.

But late last year, federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt approved yet another gas hub. This means more dredging, more loss of fragile seagrass, more pressure on our struggling dugongs and turtles. That same day he gave a green light to a new port terminal with 5 million more tonnes of dredging, just 50 kms north of the Whitsunday Islands. This sealed the deal to help make Abbot Point one of the largest coal ports in the world. He signed it all off by letting them dump the sand and mud in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Marine Park. Then the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the body set up to protect and manage the Reef on our behalf, approved the dumping permit. Download a report into the impact of dredging and dumping in the Great Barrier Reef.

How is AMCS fighting this decision?
With your support, AMCS and other groups flew into action setting up a legal fighting fund and helping two regional groups – the North Queensland Conservation Council and Mackay Conservation Group issue legal challenges against the dredging and dumping. But we haven’t stopped there. Our Fight for the Reef campaign, in collaboration with WWF Australia, is a true David and Goliath battle. The mining sector is the main driver of the port expansions planned for the Great Barrier Reef coastline, with all but a few of these expansions for the export of coal and gas. The mining industry has had their own way for too long, flexing their muscle and influence in the halls of government. The Queensland Resources Council spent $22 million in past years lobbying governments and running their public relations battle in the media. AMCS is working daily with campaign partners up and down the coast. Across the country, we have mobilised thousands of people to write, email, phone and take to the streets for the Reef. 

In Airlie Beach we have helped galvanise tourism operators, businesses and local residents, united in their fear of impacts from Abbot Point, with dredge dumping threatening the Whitsunday’s pure white sands and azure blue water. In Brisbane we have brought thousands of people onto the streets to highlight the Reef’s plight and in Canberra we have walked the halls of Parliament raising Australians’ concerns. We’ve made strong representations to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee who kept up the pressure on our governments, threatening to list the Reef as ‘World Heritage in Danger’ if Australia stays on this industrial path. And when the government ignored the thousands of phone calls, the mountains of media stories, the urgings of 240 top Australian marine scientists and our direct lobbying to stop the approvals to dredge and dump at Abbot Point, we turned to you, the community, to help us ensure these irrational decisions are challenged in the courts. 

Exposing the dirt to shareholders
All industrial developments of this scale need big money. And developments so close to the world’s most significant coral reef system come with big reputational risks for industry. We have lobbied companies like Lendlease here in Australia, and we are reaching out with conservation colleagues in Europe to pressure financial institutions such as Deutsche Bank not to invest in new ports on the Reef. The great news is that the campaign is working. With your help we are making waves. No new port developments have reached financial close and many have been delayed. Last year Glencore Xstrata abandoned its planned coal export terminal in the Fitzroy Delta and BHP Billiton withdrew from a new coal terminal at Abbot Point. In March this year Anglo American Coal and Lendlease withdrew from Queensland Government plans for more expansion at Abbot Point. Then just last month a second port development in the Fitzroy Delta, the Mitchell Group’s Fitzroy Terminal Project missed a key deadline so their ‘right to develop’ lapsed. In effect this means the company has chosen not to proceed as planned. That’s one less threat to our Reef. Yet another company recognising the community will not tolerate their destruction. We have a long battle ahead and together we will prevail. But we can’t do it without you. We need all hands on deck.

How we can win
With your help we will hit back. We will ensure the politicians feel the heat of the voting public and challenge the social licence of an industry that threatens the Reef. We will control this industrial nightmare, before it’s too late. With your help we will continue to support the legal challenges against dredging and dumping at Abbot Point. With your help we can continue to work with the community of Airlie Beach and amplify the voices of tourism operators and fishers through the media and in our parliaments. We’ll keep working with scientists to release new reports that reveal the truth about what has happened in Gladstone, and and what will happen to the Reef if other port developments proceed.

We will commission further studies with economists to promote the enduring benefits from sustainable tourism. We will keep the pressure on companies in the board rooms and turn up the heat on all governments. We won’t rest until they put the brakes on this dirty agenda of dredging, dumping and port expansion. We won’t rest until we secure a healthy future for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. This year AMCS will mark our 50th anniversary. We formed in 1965 to fight plans to mine the very coral that makes up our Great Barrier Reef for use as limestone. Because of the generous contributions of our members and supporters, we’ve stopped the miners from ruining the reef in the 60s, 70s and 80s. With your ongoing support we will stop them again. We are simply not going to let them ruin our Reef. Please give what you can today. Please help us in the Fight for the Reef. Donate now.

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Campaign Details

Group Leading this Campaign: Australian Marine Conservation Society

Main Issue of the Campaign:

Campaign Ran From: 2013 to 2018

Campaign Outcome:

Year Outcome Assessed:

Geographic Range of Activity:


Great Barrier Reef