Some people in the conservation movement will miss George Christensen when he leaves parliament and passes into political oblivion. His unique ability to be ineffective has meant that some of our region’s most environmentally damaging projects have not gone ahead.
Back in 2013 Mr Christensen wanted three million cubic metres of dredge spoil from the Abbot Point port expansion to be dumped in a Great Barrier Reef Green Zone. Green Zones are places that where fishing is prohibited so that fish can grow to maturity and produce vastly more offspring than smaller fish. That ensure’s there are plenty of fish in the other two thirds of the marine park.
Mr Christensen’s absurd proposal outraged the public, including tourism operators in the Whitsundays. The outcry forced him to reverse his stance and call on the owners of the port to not only avoid Green Zones but not dump dredge spoil anywhere in the ocean. Mr Christensen’s advocacy for environmental vandalism united the community in opposition to his outrageous plan.
More recently Mr Christensen made it his top priority to ensure the federal budget included taxpayer funding for the privately owned Urannah Dam. He fell flat on his face with that one as well.
Let’s contrast Mr Christensen’s approach with his National Party predecessor, De-Anne Kelly. While Mr Christensen has demonised Mackay Conservation Group, labelling members of the group “extreme greens”, De-Anne Kelly took a completely different approach. De-Anne Kelly was a member of the Mackay Conservation Group and attended meetings at the Mackay Environment Centre. She was proud to advocate on behalf of our environment.
When locals took concerns to her about environmental impacts of a prawn farm at Armstrong’s Beach, Mrs Kelly had the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act changed to ensure harm was avoided.
One Sunday afternoon in the 1990s De-Anne Kelly phoned the Mackay Environment Centre, proudly telling me she had been successful in having the Slade Point reserve included on the Register of the National Estate, which listed Australia’s most important natural and cultural icons. She knew how important that news would be to members of Mackay Conservation Group, given our long campaign to have the reserve created.
We can only hope that once Mr Christensen is gone we again have a representative who listens to all members of the community and argues for sane policies to be implemented. Fingers crossed.