MORE than 1500km from the Great Barrier Reef, a small group of passionate protestors took their concerns about coal ports to the Parliament in Canberra on Monday.
While the "Canberra residents" group was small, they had the backing of Greens Senator Larissa Waters, who stood with them calling for Environment Minister Tony Burke to reverse his approval of the Abbot Point expansion in Central Queensland.
Mr Burke approved the Alpha Coal port expansion earlier this month, and was unlikely to reverse the decision after applying numerous restrictions which he said would help protect the reef.
But protest spokeswoman Linsey Cole said it was clear he did not want to abide by the World Heritage Council's concerns that more expansions near the reef could threaten its future.
Mr Burke previously has said the approval was within the UNESCO committee's recommendations not to create any new port areas.
He said he "didn't think the protestors realise there is already a massive stockpile of coal and an operating coal port at Abbot Point", and if they were looking for pristine areas, this was not it.
But Ms Cole said although the protestors did not live near the reef, they knew the expansion of the existing port could risk yet more damage to the reef for future generations.
She said the approval passed through without any resistance partly due to the lack of media coverage of the issue, with much attention on "other issues" at the time.
Senator Waters agreed, but said the lack of any opposition from the Coalition also contributed to the approval not creating many headlines.
She said the last thing the reef needed was to be treated like a dumping ground for dredge spoil or a coal export "super-highway".
Senator Waters said the approval showed the government was not prepared to stop approving new developments near the reef while the cumulative effects of existing approvals were assessed.
A strategic assessment of the existing approvals was already under way, but unlikely to be completed before the end of 2013.
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