Great Barrier Reef funding to keep business of natural wonder afloat

By Melissa Coade

March 23, 2022

Science and technology has been added to defence industry minister Melissa Price’s federal portfolio.
Science and technology minister Melissa Price. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

More than $60 million will flow to ‘vital science and research infrastructure’ as part of a federal government budget promise to back jobs and businesses that rely on healthy Reef tourism. 

Prime minister Scott Morrison announced a funding package for the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) on Tuesday, with money for critical marine science, an upgrade to the Cape Cleveland wharf south of Townsville, and money to finance the design of a research vessel to replace the RV Cape Ferguson. 

“My government has a deep commitment to the reef and the evidence-based marine science that will protect it for generations to come and support the almost 64,000 people who drive the $6.4 billion reef economy,” the PM said in a statement. 

“This investment will allow our marine scientists to take their research to the next level, and continue to work alongside other scientists, farmers, traditional owners, local communities and tourism operators in our shared endeavour to understand and protect our iconic Great Barrier Reef.”

A total of $26.5 million has been allocated to upgrade the wharf, and another $1.5 million for its ongoing maintenance. Works will include raising the wharf’s sea wall and extending it further into the harbour, in addition to building a new wharf in deeper water.

Morrison said the infrastructure would allow AIMS researchers to directly unload sensitive scientific research samples, including coral, rapidly from the reef to the aquarium complex.

“The remediation of Cape Cleveland wharf will mean scientists can access the research vessels directly from the AIMS site, rather than having to board up in Townsville,” he explained 

Science and technology minister Melissa Price said $5.3 million (of a bigger $37.1 over three years for research initiatives) to design a research vessel was a critical investment. She said it would help AIMS support the government’s Reef 2050 Plan.

“Our support for the design of a next-generation vessel will ensure a replacement can be constructed before the RV Cape Ferguson needs to be retired,” Price said. 

“These initiatives will support the critical science and research of AIMS that helps Australia manage threats to the health and future of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Minister Price added that construction works would comply with environmental guidelines for World Heritage Areas like the reef.

“The wharf is vital to the work of AIMS, allowing its vessels, and research partners, to have direct access from the reef to on-site laboratories and the SeaSim research aquarium,” she said.


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