Lady Elliot Island, on the Great Barrier Reef.
Lady Elliot Island, on the Great Barrier Reef. Contributed

Call for more action to stop port developments near Reef

GREEN groups have called on Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to prevent the handover of Commonwealth environmental approval powers to state governments, as part of an effort to stop port developments near the Great Barrier Reef.

Spearheading the push against the handover - which former prime minister Julia Gillard abandoned last year - is the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

Society reef campaigner Felicity Wishart said the state was "already reeling" from the state government's decision to fast-track approvals along the Queensland coast.

The call for more action from the Federal Government comes after Mr Rudd met with the Business Council of Australia this week, a key body pushing for the handover.

BSA president Tony Shepherd said the meeting was "constructive" and both parties had committed to a continued "open dialogue" on issues affecting business operators.

Ms Wishart said the business lobby was calling for a "further fast-tracking of developments along the reef".

She said a similar approach was being planned by the Coalition's "one stop shop" environmental approval plans, with environmentalists urging Mr Rudd "not to engage in a race to the bottom".

"We urge both major parties to resist the temptation to slash and burn our environmental protection," Ms Wishart said.

While the Coalition has indicated it would hand over Commonwealth assessments and approvals, the Rudd government has made no indications it plans to change the existing regulatory regime.