$1b pledged for Great Barrier Reef amid pressure to avoid ‘in danger’ listing

By Jackson Graham

January 28, 2022

Environment minister Sussan Ley said the damage feral predators did was “horrific”.
Sussan Ley is Australia’s Environment minister. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The federal environment department and Great Barrier Reef Authority will manage an extra $1 billion for the reef as a deadline nears for Australia to report to the United Nations on how it will protect it. 

The federal money, announced Friday, will be managed by public servants over nine years and be delivered through local communities and industries. 

It will be spent on reef management and research, with more than half of the money going towards remediating erosion to improve water quality, improving land condition, and reducing nutrient and pesticide run-off.

The money comes in addition to $3 billion already committed under the Australian and Queensland governments’ Reef 2050 plan.

The government is also pitching the announcement as an economic boost for northern Queensland and the 64,000 jobs that depend on that reef. 

The reef came close to receiving an “in danger” rating from UNESCO in mid-2021, but the world heritage committee granted Australia another eight months to outline how it would protect what is the world’s biggest coral reef system. 

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority chief Josh Thomas said at the time the federal body was “very clear on the challenges facing the reef” and the need for global action on climate change. 

The federal government is required to report to UNESCO by next month on actions it is going to take to protect the reef. 

Describing it as the “best-managed reef in the world”, prime minister Scott Morrison said the funding would support scientists, farmers and traditional owners to reduce the threat of pollution and predators including the crown of thorns starfish. 

“We are backing the health of the reef and the economic future of tourism operators,” he said. 

Environment minister Sussan Ley said the government was making a record level of investment in the reef.

“From breakthrough science in coral seeding and restoration to improved water quality, the latest on water management and compliance systems, as well as the protection of native species, we are working across every aspect of the reef,” Ley said.

The opposition welcomed the investment on Friday but shadow energy and climate change spokesperson Chris Bowen also took aim at the federal government’s energy policies, saying “climate action is what the reef needs”. 

“Throwing money at the reef while keeping a 26-28% target is treating the symptoms, ignoring the cause,” Bowen said. 

“More investment in the reef is welcome. Climate action would be more welcome.”


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