June 19th 2012
Jones keeps bagging the report he hasn’t read
“The last thing they (Magnetic Island-based tourism businesses) need is UNESCO bagging what we are doing,” said our federal parliamentary member, Ewen Jones. He was talking about the report, which put the Federal and State governments on notice that the Great Barrier Reef would be downgraded to, “World Heritage in Danger” if major changes to port expansions, which are threatening the Reef’s water quality, were not made by next year. Mr Jones however admitted that, after week of publicly attacking the international body, he hadn’t yet read the five page report.
Ewen Jones was on Magnetic Island for a Sunday Morning “Listening post” last week, where members of our electorate of Herbert could meet informally and discuss issues of importance with him.
Magnetic Times took the opportunity to question Ewen Jones over what may be one the most challenging announcements concerning the Reef-tourism economy at a time when tourist-dependent business prospects on Magnetic have rarely looked worse.
“I have conversations with (GBRMPA Chief Executive) Dr Russel Reichelt who tells me that the biggest threats to the Reef, in order, are: (1) cyclones. Yasi did more damage to the Reef than shipping ever did; (2) Crown of thorns star fish; (3) nitrogen run-off from farming and over-riding it all is climate change. That’s what the scientists tell us!
“When UNESCO comes out for four days and issues a report to change the (World Heritage) listing, it sounds like politics to me! The comments by Russell Reichelt are more considered with a scientific base".
Mr Jones also questioned whether UNESCO’s team actually met with GBRMPA representatives. On checking with GBRMPA, Magnetic Times can confirm that the monitoring mission did meet with relevant GBRMPA staff and, according to GBRMPA, when meeting stakeholders, the mission was accompanied by an officer from GBRMPA.
Magnetic Times also understands that the UNESCO team spent ten days during their Reef mission and not four as Mr Jones claimed.
Magnetic Times asked GBRMPA’s Dr Reichelt if he could comment as to how important water quality and the effects of dredging, as per the UNESCO report, is in comparison to the risks Mr Jones stated?
In a statement to Magnetic Times he said, “Climate change, declining water quality, loss of coastal habitats and a small number of impacts from fishing and illegal fishing are acknowledged in our 2009 Outlook Report as the major threats to the Reef. Climate change is an important issue facing virtually all World Heritage areas. Shipping has also emerged as an issue of increasing concern in recent times.
"Declining water quality was identified as a risk to the Reef in the Outlook Report, and inshore areas continue to be exposed to increased levels of sediments, nutrients and pesticides.
"Water quality can also be affected by dredging activities. Dredging and material placement have relatively well-known potential impacts such as degradation of water quality, changes to hydrodynamics, smothering of benthic fauna and flora, damage to marine wildlife through the dredge mechanism, translocation of species and removal of habitat."
When asked for a response to the UNESCO report, Tourism Operators Businesses Magnetic Island (TOBMI) Chair, and owner of Providence Sailing, Lindsay Simpson told Magnetic Times, “I think it’s a wake-up call. You have to respect a group like UNESCO. I think we've got a real issue continuing to call our reef on the island 'magnificent fringing reef'.
'If the reef and its islands are part of a World Heritage listed area, then we need to work to retain that classification. People have expectations when they come here, they will see something magnificent. We need to deliver this to tourists rather than raise expectations and not deliver and that means looking after our environment.
“When we first moved to Tasmania in the 90s, they were promoting beaches and yachting and summer clothes on brochures- it was March and should have been summer, but the weather was bitterly cold and we hadn't allowed for that. That kind of message lets the tourists down”.
“TOBMI has a sustainable advisory committee comprising GBRMPA, Parks & Wildlife, Solar Cities, TEL, TCC and NQ Dry Tropics and community members who all have a vested interest or are stakeholders on the island. They are there to advise TOBMI on how to keep the island sustainable. We are compiling an assets register which includes our natural, cultural and historical assets. We need to look after the qualities that attract people interested in nature tourism and come for the pristine qualities we can offer. The island can be an international destination in its own right for these reasons - our 23 beaches, our diversified flora and fauna and our closeness to the reef,” she said.
Story and photo: George Hirst
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