How could we let this happen? That’s what UNESCO officials want to find out, as they take the extraordinary step of coming to Australia, arriving today. They're here to investigate how Australian governments have allowed one of our most precious World Heritage areas, the Great Barrier Reef, to be devastated by dredging and dumping to make way for coal and coal seam gas export facilities.
The Australian Government didn't even tell UNESCO that they'd approved the development of massive coal seam gas export facilities on the doorstep to the Reef. UNESCO (The United Nations body charged with designating and protecting World Heritage sites) now has the opportunity to declare the Great Barrier Reef officially 'in danger'. This would be a huge help in preventing the mining industry's expansion around Gladstone and deeply embarrassing for the Australian government.
Starting from today, UNESCO representatives are meeting with scientists, environment groups, state government, fishing and tourism industry representatives, local councils and mining companies, but one group is missing -- the Australian community.
We will personally deliver all messages from GetUp members in a meeting with Fanny Douvere and Tim Badman, from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee mission team, in Cairns next Tuesday morning. It's important that we can show that Australians across the country have a stake in this. Can you take 5 minutes or less to write a brief message to UNESCO asking them to stand firm against the mining industry dredging up and wrecking this priceless world heritage area?
So far more than 75,688 of us have signed the petition to immediately halt dredging millions of cubic metres of seafloor in the Gladstone Harbour, and to stop major coastal developments in the area until a strategic assessment has been completed.
Glenn, a GetUp member from Invernell NSW, wrote in about visiting the reef in 1992: "Not in all my imaginations could I believe there could be anything so colourful, so beautiful or so perfect. Recently (19 years later) we thought we would take our three sons to visit this natural wonder of the world, again returning to Bait Reef. The only way to describe our disappointment is 'horrified'! Apart from a few colourful fish the colour had totally gone. The reef now resembles a rainforest which had been clear felled and burnt."
And it's actually getting worse. Dredging spoils - all the muck that's ripped from the sea floor, including toxins and heavy metals - are being dumped within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Dredging impacts coral and sea life kilometres away, and now the Government is proposing to charge per tonne for companies to dump their spoils into the GBR, legitimising the practice and providing an incentive for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to approve this dump. It's madness.
The fragile ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef reef is already under pressure from climate change, overfishing, pollution and shipping traffic. Now these huge coal seam gas and mining industry export developments along the coast, some within the World Heritage Area, threaten the Reef's very existence.
This overdevelopment and destruction has got to stop. We can't all make it to Cairns or Gladstone to meet with UNESCO - but we can make our voices heard in thousands of personal messages from the nation. Click here to write yours.
Despite the tremendous threats to the Great Barrier Reef, UNESCO officials are currently being lobbied hard by those who insist there's nothing to be concerned about. Let's ensure they don't speak for us.
The GetUp team.
 'Disposal of dredge material in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park', Zoning, Permits and Plans, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority