Minister orders inquiry into reef protection agency

AN inquiry has been ordered into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority after revelations that board members held interests in companies that could benefit from expanding coal and gas production near the reef.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt has ordered an "immediate" inquiry into the agency charged with protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

The ABC has reported documents it obtained show the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has taken an increasingly weaker position on new port developments near the reef.

It said two of the five board members had links to members of the Obeid family.

Former Townsville mayor Tony Mooney earns $250,000 a year working for a coal company, and Queensland's top public servant Jon Grayson owns a one-sixth shareholding in a company called Gasfields Water and Waste Services.

Both men helped set the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority's position on ports at a number of board meetings.

According to documents obtained by the ABC under freedom of information laws, the GBRMPA board met in Gladstone in March last year and considered a crucial document that would set its position on the development of ports to service Queensland's mining boom.

The revelations come as the Great Barrier Reef faces growing threats to its existence.

Massive coal ports are planned along the Queensland coastline, which environmental groups predict will have devastating effects on the reef.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society said all new port developments on the reef should be put on hold while the matter was investigated.

"We are calling for an investigation to be conducted by the Crime and Misconduct Commission so that we can all have confidence about the separation between decision makers and mining interests," Ms Wishart said.

"Allegations raised on the 730 Report are very serious and affect Australians' confidence in the entire industrialisation of the Great Barrier Reef's coastline.

"There is now a shadow of corruption over the development agenda and all Queenslanders need to be assured that this is not the case.

"Plans for mega-ports along the coast have been fast tracked and given special treatment by government.

"We need to know exactly who is benefiting from this port development."

The Queensland Government has denied Mr Grayson has a conflict of interest.

"Following his appointment, and in accordance with the Queensland Integrity Commissioner's advice, Mr Grayson ceased to have any management involvement in active companies," the government said in a statement.

"His retention of passive interests is in accordance with the commissioner's advice and poses no real or potential conflict of interest."

Topics:  abbot point environment gladstone great barrier reef great barrier reef marine park authority greg hunt resources

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