When the government took office in 2013, the reef was on track to be listed as ‘in danger’ by the United Nations World Heritage Committee.
The Coalition Government has taken major steps to help turn around the health of the reef resulting in the World Heritage Committee declaring in July last year that Australia was a global role model for the management of World Heritage properties, and as a consequence the reef would not be listed ‘in danger’ and would be removed from the watch list.
We ended plans for five massive dredge disposal projects in the Great Barrier Reef’s waters, inherited from Labor, and then took the unprecedented action of banning capital dredge disposal in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, once and for all.
Through the Sustainable Ports Development Act 2015, the Queensland Government has mirrored this ban in the remaining 3000 square kilometre area that includes port areas, and falls outside of the Marine Park under Commonwealth control. Together, the ban covers 100 percent of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Development is also restricted to within designated areas which are already operating ports.
We have developed and put in place our Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan – which will guide the management of the reef over coming decades. The Reef 2050 Plan brings together for the first time all the work, expertise and investment necessary to manage the Reef into the future and is based on the best available science.
We are already implementing the Reef 2050 Plan and have established two advisory committees to help provide critical advice and ensure we are using our resources to the best possible effect. An Independent Expert Panel, chaired by Australia’s chief scientist, and a Reef Advisory Committee chaired by the Chairman of the Australian Institute of Marine Science will support effective implementation of the Reef 2050 Plan. Local environmental groups have an ongoing role on the Advisory Committee.
The Reef 2050 Plan is supported by a new $210 million Reef Trust which will invest in projects with a focus on improving water quality as part of an overall $2 billion Federal and State investment in the Reef.
The Reef Trust will provide strategic, targeted investment for on-ground action to improve water quality, and coastal habitat, and will enhance the protection of threatened and migratory marine species. Projects include reducing erosion from gullies and working with sugar cane farmers on improved land management.
The 2014 Great Barrier Reef Report Card, released in September 2015, shows that the work already being undertaken by landholders is making a difference.
The government is also taking action domestically and internationally to address global challenges such as climate change. Our National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy complements Australia’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 26-28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
In addition, the government has announced $58 million in Reef Trust investments to support farmers to reduce sediment and fertiliser runoff, and restore priority wetland areas to boost the resilience of the reef.
The Reef 2050 Plan is not an end point. It is the start of a decades-long process under which we will continually monitor and adapt our management and investment to ensure we reach our goals.
Further information on the extensive measures in place to protect the Great Barrier Reef is available at: www.environment.gov.au/topics/marine/great-barrier-reef