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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

9 March 2002

No Drilling on Great Barrier Reef

If any oil company has secret plans to drill for oil and gas on the Great Barrier Reef, it will be sorely disappointed.

The Howard government introduced new legislation giving the Federal Environment Minister strong and explicit powers over the Reef and its surrounding World Heritage Area.

No plan can proceed without approval from me under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

They can do all the mapping they like but there will be no mining on the Reef; there'll be no mining in the World Heritage Area that surrounds the Reef and there'll be no mining outside the World Heritage Area if it is going to significantly impact on the Reef.

Some mischief-makers are suggesting that an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out into the impact of seismic exploration in the Townsville Trough, 50 kilometres outside the World Heritage Area, signals the government's tacit support for this project. Nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, it means that the Commonwealth has decided there may be an adverse impact and that it has used its powers to intervene. As a result, this project cannot proceed without my permission. However, under the EPBC Act, I am required to call for an Environmental Impact Assessment before I can exercise my powers to approve or disapprove any project.

I cannot offer an opinion on any project before an Environmental Impact Assessment has been completed because that would allow a company to challenge my final decision on the grounds that I had pre-empted due process and made a decision before all the facts were established.

Oil and gas exploration is not proceeding on the Reef. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority issues permits for mapping and scientific research. The better we understand the Reef and its environment, the better we're able to conserve and protect it. But I repeat: no drilling for oil and gas on the Reef or in the World Heritage Area will be allowed. No exploration will be allowed outside the Reef if it significantly impacts on the World Heritage Area.

Media Contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

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