101 East

Reef Race

Environmentalists race to save Australia's Great Barrier Reef as port expansions threaten its World Heritage status.

Last Modified: 10 May 2013 10:11
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Australia’s iconic Great Barrier Reef is at risk of being put on UNESCO’s World Heritage danger list due to proposed port expansions.

The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef, sits off the coast of Queensland in Australia’s northeast. It brings in almost two million visitors and about $6bn from tourism every year.

But one of Australia’s top export earners is coal and Queensland is the country’s top coal producer. Many coal ports and coal shipping routes are close to or within the Great Barrier Reef.

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Now, there are nine proposals for coal mines and port expansion in the vicinity of the heritage listed reef.

The UN has alerted the Queensland and federal governments that this natural wonder of the world will be placed on the 2014 danger list in the absence of a firm and demonstrable commitment to protect the reef from pressures of mining and port development.

Greenpeace says coal terminal expansions will lead to increased ship traffic, port infrastructure and dredging that will threaten the ecosystem that is composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.

The environmental activist group has sent in the Rainbow Warrior to tour Australia to raise awareness about concerns for the coral reef. The vessel is a custom-built, environmentally-friendly ship that tours the world, docking near sites of environmental dispute.

101 East joins the crew of the Rainbow Warrior as it docks in the Great Barrier Reef to raise awareness about its fight against coal mining and new port construction close to the coral reef.

We journey with the ship as it makes its last stop close to one of Queensland’s largest port terminals. We speak with Great Barrier Reef authorities, scientists and the resources sector about development needs and environmental concerns and ask: who will win the race to the reef?

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