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Fighting to stop Great Barrier Reef conflict

DON'T look at environmental protection and development on the Great Barrier Reef as mutually exclusive, says Reef Catchments chief executive officer Rob Cocco.

The manager spoke at a Resource Industry Network event yesterday, and pointed out reasons why the dialogue about the reef needed to change.

"We want the conversation to be one of shared values," Mr Cocco said.

"At the moment the debate around the Great Barrier Reef is protection for the environment versus development. There's a lot of conflict. But the desired outcome of the community is to have both."

Mr Cocco said ground gained in other industries, like agriculture, showed both outcomes were possible.

"Ten years ago there were farmers who didn't think they would ever engage with groups like the World Wildlife Fund," he said.

"Farmers were viewed similarly to how the resource industry is viewed today.

"But there's a whole raft of opportunities, both economic and environmental, that came from working together."

While Mr Cocco acknowledged that facilitating the export of coal through the reef could lead to global warming and harm the reef, he said it would be unrealistic to stop the supply of coal at this point in time.

"We know from science that one of the greatest threats to the reef is the influence of climate change," he said.

"But the issue is one of timing: now in Australia and globally we are not in a position to have enough supply of power from a renewable form.

"It would be hypocritical of us to say 'No, stop it all now' when I drove to work in a steel (derived from coal) car."

He hoped some of the wealth generated from the resource sector would eventually be channelled back into developing renewable energy.

He also said there was a push from corporation's world wide to couple economic enterprise with sustainable practises, and creating an environment where both were priorities would encourage them to invest here.

"We hope this discussion, about sharing these outcomes, will be ongoing from now on," he said.

Topics:  conflict environment fighting great barrier reef


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