ELEANOR HALL: Conservationists are calling for an overhaul of the body that's meant to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority approved a plan to dump dredge spoil inside the marine park in January.
But a former director of the authority has told the ABC's Four Corners program that the majority of the authority's scientists opposed this, and conservationists are now calling for that approval to be revoked.
Maria Hatzakis reports.
MARIA HATZAKIS: Internal documents obtained by the ABC's Four Corners program have revealed deep divisions between scientists and bureaucrats behind a decision, to dump 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil inside the marine park, in north Queensland, to expand the Abbot Point coal terminal.
A former director of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Jon Day resigned last month after 20 years with the authority.
He's told the Four Corners program, the body recommended allowing the dumping, despite opposition from most of its own scientists.
Richard Leck from the World Wildlife Fund say the authority should now be overhauled.
RICHARD LECK: Australia's best marine scientists, including the godfather of marine scientists in Australia, are all saying the worst thing that can happen to the Great Barrier Reef at this point, is to allow millions of tonnes of dredge spoil to be dumped in its waters.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority needs to be a stronger, more independent body that will act as a champion for the Great Barrier Reef.
MARIA HATZAKIS: Mr Leck also wants the decision to allow the dumping revoked.
RICHARD LECK: A bad decision has been made.
That decision needs to be reversed, and the structure of the marine park authority needs to change to be stronger and more independent so we don't have decisions like these happen in the future.
MARIA HATZAKIS: But Michael Roche from the Queensland Resources Council has questioned Jon Day's expertise.
MICHAEL ROCHE: Jon Day is a highly experienced professional working in different areas to do with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. What Jon Day is not, is an expert on port development, dredging or project assessments.
MARIA HATZAKIS: The program also quoted numerous scientists who share Jon Day's view, what's your response to that?
MICHAEL ROCHE: What the scientists didn't have before them was all the facts, all the evidence, before the decision makers in the authority. And again, what the authority did was look at all that information, asked the question, yes there are risks here, can these risks be managed by applying conditions?
They applied 47 conditions to manage the risks.
MARIA HATZAKIS: Mr Roche is standing by the authority.
MICHAEL ROCHE: At the end of the day, we can't bring the Australian economy to a halt.
If we listen just to the scientists, that's what we'd be doing.
What we have to do is look at the risks involved with any development project and judge whether or not we can manage the risks, that's what we pay the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority and other regulators to do.
MARIA HATZAKIS: But Greens Senator Larissa Waters says the Federal Government must heed the growing scientific outcry about the dumping.
LARISSA WATERS: Successive governments have let the reef be dredged, dumped upon, used like a shipping super highway, rather than properly protected and looked after.
The approval of the Abbott Point dredging and dumping needs to be revoked. If we are to salvage the future of the Great Barrier Reef, there's no other course of action.
MARIA HATZAKIS: She's also called on the Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to stand down.
LARISSA WATERS: He has presided over the approval of the world's largest coal port in the Great Barrier Reef and he has ticked off on the biggest coal mine in the Southern Hemisphere which will threaten the reef from climate change and also from the dredging and offshore dumping.
So Minister Hunt needs to stand down; he's not an Environment Minister; he's a coal minister if nothing else.