NEWS that the approval deadline for a multi-cargo facility at Abbot Point Coal Terminal has been extended until December 2012 is disappointing, Whitsunday mayor Mike Brunker says.
Environment Minister Tony Burke last week signed off on the extension of the approval deadline, which had already been extended to March 30 in December.
Cr Brunker said he feared the decision could be delayed further if it was linked to an upcoming report from UNESCO, which last week visited the region to investigate the health of the reef and the impact of the mining industry.
Member for Dawson George Christensen was also unhappy with the decision, saying he was worried about the delay, which would mean the region would be "in limbo" for two years.
"The reality is that this project is basically what Bowen has been waiting for for a very long time," he said.
"It really does push back all of those hopes of opportunity for Bowen and it starts to put everything in jeopardy."
Greenpeace campaigner John Hepburn welcomed Mr Burke's decision, saying it was "untenable" for him to propose approving the world's largest coal port before completion of the government's strategic assessment.
The documents signed by Mr Burke stated his decision would allow more time for impact assessment studies and for gathering of information from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Queensland Government and port proponents.
Mr Burke said the approval would not necessarily be delayed until December.
"I have no reason to believe that we will need until the end of the year to reach a decision but I believe it was prudent to give a significant extension now rather than have a number of extensions in the next few months," Mr Burke said.
North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation has developed a plan to reclaim the sand from Clark Shoal to form a protected harbour and create 12 land-backed wharves to accommodate projected medium-term demand for bulk exports and industrial products at Abbot Point.
Stage one is likely to have four berths and a tug facility and stage two could include eight more berths.