Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Australia welcomes World Heritage Centre delegation
6 March 2012
Environment Minister Tony Burke today welcomed to Australia a delegation from the World Heritage Centre and the International Union for Conservation of Nature which will assess conservation of the world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef.
Mr Burke said the 6-14 March visit presented an opportunity for reef managers and the community to showcase Australia's management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
“The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s greatest treasures,” Mr Burke said.
“It is also one of Australia’s most significant environmental places and has been recognised as one of the healthiest coral reef ecosystems, and best managed marine areas in the world.
“The visit from these delegates will allow us to demonstrate our commitment to sustainable development that ensures the outstanding Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is protected.”
The Australian Government invited the delegation in response to concerns raised by the World Heritage Committee last year about development on Curtis Island.
Mr Burke said there were complex management challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area along with significant threats such as ocean acidification as a result of climate change.
“Long-term sustainability can only be achieved by a collective effort, including through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s ongoing management activities, the Queensland Government’s improved regulatory measures and the establishment of marine parks,” he said.
“Also essential is the hard work of farmers and graziers working to avoid the impacts of run-off through the Reef Rescue program, and councils, schools and fishers contributing as part of the Reef Guardians program.”
The Australian Government is providing $200 million dollars over five years under the Reef Rescue initiative, more than $12 million for research through the National Environmental Research Program and $1.8 million dollars a year to implement the Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan.
The Australian and Queensland Governments have also recently announced a new joint assessment process to ensure sustainable future development along Queensland’s coastline and ongoing protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef.
The region will undergo a strategic assessment under national environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 which provides a big-picture study of an area to assess how environmental values can be best protected while allowing sustainable development.
"Rather than always dealing with one application at a time this allows an assessment of the region as a whole," Mr Burke said.
"That gives us an opportunity to take into account the cumulative impacts and any indirect impacts such as increased shipping movement. It’s a better way to protect the reef.”
Mr Burke said the World Heritage delegation would meet with a range of groups at several locations including state and federal governments, environmental groups, Traditional Owners, local governments and business and industry representatives.
“The delegates have indicated that they are interested in looking at resilience to climate change, agricultural runoff and severe weather events across the whole Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, not only the areas of industrial development,” he said.
“The meetings are an opportunity for people to express their views, and for the delegation to seek information from a variety of sources.”