Hay Point Coal terminal.
Hay Point Coal terminal. Lee Constable

UNESCO referees battle over reef

THE Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is embroiled in a brutal custody battle.

Gloving up in one corner are the resource giants, billion-dollar corporations who employ thousands and insist upon their solid stewardship of the living treasure.

Opposing them are grassroots green groups, adamant the reef's survival is in the balance.

The referee is a team of UNESCO delegates, who fly into Mackay today to continue their investigation into the state of the reef.

The "reactive monitoring mission" comes after the organisation expressed concerns over the environmental impact of coal and gas ports.

At risk is the reef's World Heritage listing, with green groups worried it may be re-classified as "in danger".

Patricia Julian, of the Mackay Conservation Group, said a change in status would be "a national embarrassment".

"The concern is it could be put on the danger list as a high-watch zone," she said.

Conservation groups will gather at Louisa Creek this morning in a show of support.

The Greens candidate for Mirani Christine Carlisle said the group would be erecting protest signs that could be seen from the air as the UNESCO delegates flew over the area.

"This small community is under siege from the over-development of the ports.

"That is having an impact on lives and health," she said.

"Our signs will be clearly visible from the air."

On the eve of the visit Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen accused the Greens, Greenpeace and "quite possibly UNESCO" of wanting to shut down the entire mining industry.

"What we are seeing today is UNESCO coming over here to tell us if the job-creating Dudgeon Pt and Abbot Pt port developments can go ahead or not," he said.

Mr Christensen said the UNESCO tour was part of a major push to close down the mining industry.

Jonathon Dykyj, state spokesman for the Queensland Greens, disagreed.

"We want a cleaner economy that creates jobs and is also responsible, socially and environmentally," he said.

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