Five years for reef authority to improve permit system

IT WILL take the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority five years to complete its response to an audit of its permits system ordered after the approval of a dredging project at Abbot Point.

The controversial approval of the original dredging project caused an uproar as the most damaging option was approved against the protestations of senior scientists who have since left the regulator.

An Australian National Audit Office report examining the authority's permit approval, assessment and "non-compliance" systems last year found shortcomings in the system that "undermined the effectiveness of the permitting system as a means of managing risks to the marine park".

It recommended several changes be made to improve the system, including a new risk-based compliance monitoring program and other internal mechanisms to manage breaches of permit approval conditions.

In a submission to a committee investigating the response to the audit, the authority revealed it had begun an "action plan" to create an "enhanced permission compliance program", but it would be five years before the program would be completed.

The authority has however started work on new "guidelines" for permit assessments, expected to be released in mid-2016 for public consultation before taking effect in July next year.


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