Regulation impact statement

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REGULATION IMPACT STATEMENTgreat barrier reef marine park authority

Banning the disposal of capital dredge spoil material in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park

14 May 2015


Introduction 4

The Great Barrier Reef 4

Timeline 6

Scope 9

Assessing the problem 12

Impacts of disposal of dredge material in the Marine Park 13

Recent history of capital dredge spoil disposal in Marine Park 15

Existing regulatory arrangements 19

Why Government action is necessary 23

Desired outcomes of Government action 23

Addressing uncertainty 24

Options to address the problem 25

Summary - Public Consultations and Advices 31

Draft Great Barrier Reef Region Strategic Assessment and Program Report 31

Draft Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan 31

Tourism Reef Advisory Committee 32

Local Marine Advisory Committees 32

March 2015 33

Submissions analysis 35

Outcomes from Public Consultation 41

Final proposal 41

Net benefits 42

Impact on businesses 43

Impact on community groups 45

Impact on individuals 46

Calculation of regulatory burden 50

Implementation and Evaluation 52

Appendix A – Submission List 53

List of Figures

List of Tables


This Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) has been prepared by the Commonwealth Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). The purpose of this document is to assist the Australian Government to make a decision on a regulatory proposal to ban the dumping of capital dredge spoil material in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Marine Park). The Regulation will prevent the granting of permissions, by GBRMPA, for the activity under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Zoning Plan 2003.

This RIS has been developed in accordance with the Australian Government Guide to Regulation, March 2014, issued by the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and in consultation with the Department of the Environment’s Deregulation Unit and OBPR.

This RIS has been updated based on public submissions and advice received from OPBR on 5 May 2015 and finalised in accordance with the Australian Government Guide to Regulation.

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is an Australian icon and one of the most precious ecosystems on Earth. It is a world heritage property, recognised internationally for its outstanding universal value. Containing a maze of reefs and islands, it stretches more than 2300 kilometres along the Queensland coast (Map 1). It is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, rich in biodiversity.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the Traditional Owners of the Great Barrier Reef. The Australian Government acknowledges the Reef’s Traditional Owners, past and present, and their unique and continuing connection with the area.

The Great Barrier Reef is critical to the cultural, economic and social wellbeing of the more than one million people who live in its catchment, and is valued by the national and international community. It is a marine protected area, conserving the Reef’s environment and supporting a wide range of activities, including tourism, fishing, recreation, traditional use, research, defence, shipping and ports. The Reef’s environment helps bring billions of dollars to Australia's economy each year and supports almost 70,000 jobs.

Inshore habitats in the northern third of the Marine Park, north of Cooktown, are believed to be in good or very good condition, due in large part to the relatively undisturbed catchment and a lack of development. Environmental assessments indicate the Reef is under pressure from a range of human activities, especially in the inshore waters south of Cooktown where declines in water quality, particularly excess sediment and nutrient levels, are reducing the system’s resilience.

While the effects of dredge disposal are typically local in their effect, everyone’s actions, whether big or small, to reduce threats and help restore its condition will improve the Reef’s outlook. Combined, they will make the Reef more able to recover from the legacy of past actions and better able to withstand those that may threaten its future. The proposed new regulation will prevent further impacts on the Reef from one particular source of potential environmental degradation: capital dredge spoil disposal actions.

map showing the great barrier reefMap 1. Great Barrier Reef


In recognition of the importance of looking after the Reef, the Commonwealth (and Queensland) governments have, over recent years, commissioned research studies on the effects of dredge spoil on the natural environment and undertaken broad consultation. Based on this research and in light of the World Heritage Committee discussions about the Reef, in late 2014 the Government announced its intent that all future disposals of capital dredge spoil material in the Marine Park should be banned.

GBRMPA prepared a draft RIS on the proposal and conducted formal consultation in March 2015. Following the receipt and consideration of submissions, the draft regulation to give effect to the Government’s proposal was refined. The Minister for the Environment is expected to make a final decision on this proposal by signing off on the requisite regulation in May 2015, prior to the meeting of the World Heritage Committee in June 2015.

The schedule below sets out details of both Commonwealth and Queensland government activities in relation to the dredge spoil disposal issue in recent years and the development of this RIS.




18 September 2012

The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and GBRMPA commissioned Sinclair Knight Merz Pty Ltd and Asia-Pacific Applied Science Associates to undertake a study on Improved Dredge Material Management for the Great Barrier Reef Region.1

The proposal as outlined in this RIS had not yet been identified.

12-14 May 2014

Workshop of Independent Expert Science Panel to undertake a synthesis of current knowledge of the biophysical impacts of dredging and disposal on the Great Barrier Reef2

The proposal as outlined in this RIS had not yet been identified.

12 August 2014

The Australian Government released the Great Barrier Reef Region Strategic Assessment Report and the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2014, both of which highlighted the high risk posed by disposal of dredge material to the Great Barrier Reef

The proposal as outlined in this RIS had not yet been identified.

10 November 2014

The Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, announced that he would be implementing a ban on the disposal of capital dredge spoil material in the Marine Park3.

GBRMPA began scoping the requirements to implement such a ban including developing a preliminary assessment to determine the level of RIS required.

3 December 2014

The Marine Park Authority Board, responding to the Minister’s announced policy position, gave in-principle approval for a regulation to be drafted to prevent the granting of any further permits for the disposal of capital dredge spoil material in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park4.

GBRMPA began the process to develop a regulation including beginning a standard form RIS based on OBPR’s advice from the preliminary assessment

24 January 2015

The Commonwealth Minister for the Environment issued orders for the creation of regulations for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to put an end to the dumping of capital dredge material in the Marine Park5.

GBRMPA continued development of the RIS to give full effect to the policy intent.

11 March 2015

Queensland Premier and the Minister for State Development and Natural Resources and Mines, announced the Queensland Government and the major proponents (government business enterprises) of the Abbot Point project had reached an agreement that “would see dredge spoil dumped on land on the site known as T2, [...] not [...] within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

This announcement occurred prior to public consultation on this proposal.

This announcement means that the Abbot Point project is unaffected by this proposal as the Queensland government requires all Abbot Point capital dredge spoil to be dumped on land.

16 March 2015

The Minister for the Environment announced that public consultation commenced, for a period of two weeks, on the proposal to ban the disposal of capital dredge material in the Marine Park6.

This included an ability to comment on the Consultation Draft RIS.

21 March 2015

The Prime Minister, Commonwealth Minister for the Environment and Queensland Minister for the Great Barrier Reef jointly released the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan7. This Plan highlights the Australian Government’s intention to permanently ban the disposal of capital dredge material in the Marine Park. It also highlights several Queensland Government intended actions relevant to this RIS in relation to dredging and disposal of dredge material.8

Consultation Draft RIS available.

18 April 2015

Queensland Treasurer announced that the Cairns shipping development project (which would have produced capital dredge spoil material) would not proceed.

This project will not proceed as per its current application.

May 2015

This final RIS will be provided to the Minister for the Environment as part of a package of material for a final decision in relation to the regulation.

RIS finalised.

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