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Queensland ports play a critical role in the growth of the state's economy.

The majority of Queensland's trading ports operate adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA).

The state government is working to support sustainable port development with a focus on economic growth and protecting the Great Barrier Reef.


On 12 November 2015 the Sustainable Ports Development Bill 2015 was passed by the Queensland Parliament. The Bill was assented to on 20 November 2015.

Through the new laws the Queensland Government will balance the protection of the Great Barrier Reef with the development of the state's major ports.

The new laws implement a number of Queensland's port related actions of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (Reef 2050), the most comprehensive plan ever developed to secure the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

The legislation is a significant step for the Queensland Government in fulfilling its commitments in the Reef 2050 and will ensure the Outstanding Universal Value of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is an intrinsic consideration in future port development.

Managing port related development

The Sustainable Ports Development Act 2015 will:

  • restrict new port development in and adjoining the GBRWHA to within current port limits and outside Commonwealth and state marine parks
  • prohibit major capital dredging for the development of new or expansion of existing port facilities in the GBRWHA outside the priority ports of Gladstone, Abbot Point, Townsville and Hay Point/Mackay
  • prohibit the sea-based disposal of port-related capital dredge material within the GBRWHA.

Priority ports

Consistent with Reef 2050, the new laws declare the ports of Gladstone, Abbot Point, Townsville and Hay Point/Mackay as priority ports. These are the major regional bulk commodity ports operating in or adjacent to the GBRWHA. In 2013-14, combined, the priority ports represented $32 billion trade worth and 77 per cent of the total throughput of all Queensland ports.

Port master plans for priority ports will optimise the use of existing infrastructure and address operational, economic, environmental and community relationships, as well as supply chains and surrounding land uses.

The government will lead port master planning working closely with port authorities, local governments and other key stakeholders. An important part of port master planning processes will be full public consultation.

The government reaffirms its commitment to protect the Fitzroy Delta, Keppel Bay and North Curtis Island. These areas are excluded from the Gladstone port master planned area.

Port of Cairns

The Port of Cairns and its future development is important for Far North Queensland and the state overall.

The legislation supports development at the Port of Cairns where it does not impact the GBRWHA. It allows limited port-related capital dredging in the Port of Cairns inner harbour in line with specific restrictions. No sea-based disposal of port related capital dredge material within the GBRWHA will be permitted.

Further information

  • Frequently asked questions
  • Media release
  • Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Sustainable Ports Development Act 2015 establishes priority ports at Gladstone, Abbot Point, Townsville and Hay Point/Mackay. View the media release