|Stink rises from Australia Great Barrier reef agency
Australia launched an inquiry into the agency responsible for protecting the Great Barrier Reef after some board members were urged to resign over alleged conflicts of interest related to the mining industry.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt ordered an investigation after the Australian Broadcasting Corporation aired allegations that coal and gas industry ties had seen the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority relax its stance on industrial development, AFP reports.
“I have ordered an immediate independent probity inquiry into the allegations that have been raised,'' Hunt said.
The agency is a statutory authority charged with overseeing the protection and use of the reef.
According to the ABC, two of five board members have close links to the resources sector – Tony Mooney, an executive with Guildford Coal and Jon Grayson, who owns a stake in Gasfields Water and Waste Services.
Both men were at a critical meeting last year where the board turned its back on advice from in-house scientists that it oppose port development in areas with “potential to degrade inshore diversity.’’
Instead, the board issued a watered-down statement saying such biodiversity impact should be a “key consideration'' in port approvals, while calling for further consultations with the mining industry on the issue.
The reef is facing a world heritage downgrade from UNESCO next year due to concerns about rampant coastal development proposed in the region, particularly port, gas and coal operations.
The role of individual board members in the statement on ports is unknown, but conservationists called for Mooney and Grayson to resign.
“Anyone with coal and gas interests should simply be precluded from serving on the board of management for the Great Barrier Reef,'' said Senator Larissa Waters from the Greens party.