Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Minister welcomes UNESCO's Great Barrier Reef Report

Media release
2 June 2012

Federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, has welcomed the release of a joint UNESCO World Heritage Centre and International Union for the Conservation of Nature report on the Great Barrier Reef.

The State of Conservation report summarises the findings and recommendations from a combined reactive monitoring mission to the Reef, which took place from 6-14 March 2012 and makes recommendations for the World Heritage Committee.

Mr Burke said there were no surprises in the report’s findings for the Australian Government, however, it was also important to await the World Heritage Committee's decision after they have considered the State of Conservation report and its recommendations.

"The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s greatest treasures, it is 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," Mr Burke said.

"The Gillard Government is acutely aware of the challenges facing the Reef, such as climate change and the impacts of coastal development.

"The threats to the Reef and the issues impacting on it highlighted in the mission’s report are clearly acknowledged in the Outlook Report on the Great Barrier Reef prepared by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in 2009.

"While these issues are complex, we are committed to addressing them through a range of approaches both on land and in the marine environment.

"The UNESCO mission in March acknowledged that our management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is still considered to be best practice."

Mr Burke said the State of Conservation report also made some recommendations for the comprehensive strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef currently being undertaken by the Australian and Queensland governments.

"This will be by far the largest and most comprehensive and complex assessment undertaken in Australia and it is still in the early stages," Mr Burke said.

"I welcomed the missions' feedback when they we here in March, and it will be taken into account when finalising the terms of reference."

The Australian Government invited the mission in response to concerns raised by the World Heritage Committee about development on Curtis Island.

The Committee will discuss the State of Conservation report at its 36th meeting in St Petersburg from 24 June to 6 July 2012. A final decision about the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is due at the meeting.