Sea of the crime: Westpac funds Great Barrier Reef coal port

The scene outside Westpac on October 11. Photo: Sherryn Groch.

Something fishy was going on outside Westpac headquarters in Melbourne on October 11, as colourfully dressed protesters came together to reveal the true cost of potential investment in the Great Barrier Reef coal port expansion.

Protests took place across Australia against controversial new plans to increase coal shipping through the World Heritage Area.

Though Westpac released its own promising report on climate change in 2009, Market Forces estimates it has since lent more than $900 million to fossil fuel export projects within the marine park.

The bank has not publicly ruled out financing further development in the Great Barrier Reef area.

On October 11, activists donned the guise of sea creatures in peril to voice their concern, swimming along the Swanston Street entrance for much of the afternoon.

A petition was also circulated, calling on Westpac to formally reject funding new development. It will be presented to bank representatives within the next month.

The future Abbot Point expansion, which involves the dredging of 3 million cubic metres of sea floor within the marine park, has now been approved by the state and federal governments.

However, most investors have since withdrawn support. The two big companies left, GVK and Adani, are relying on a substantial loan to cover the costs involved.

Several European banks, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC and the Royal Bank of Scotland, have already ruled out financing the Great Barrier Reef coal port expansion amid growing pressure from environmental groups.

Organisations such as Greenpeace, AYCC and Market Forces are now calling on Westpac and the other big Australian banks to do the same.
Westpac has yet to issue a formal statement.

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