Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Mark Butler MP

Minister for Climate Change
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Water

The Hon Andrew Powell MP

Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection

A plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef

Media release
10 July 2013

The Australian and Queensland governments confirmed their commitment to protecting the Great Barrier Reef with today’s release of the 2013 Reef Water Quality Protection Plan and the 2011 Great Barrier Reef Report Card.

The 2013 Reef Water Quality Protection Plan was endorsed at the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum in Brisbane and is designed to guide initiatives to ensure that runoff from agriculture has no detrimental impact on the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

Over the next five years, the Australian Government will invest $200 million through the Caring for our Country Reef Rescue initiative, while the Queensland Government will invest $175 million for a range of strategic reef programs, including rolling out new industry-led best management practice programs.

Federal Minister for the Environment Mark Butler said the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan has been in place for the past 10 years and has delivered positive results and improved reef health.

“As demonstrated by the 2011 Great Barrier Reef Report Card also released today, solid progress has been made towards key targets including land management practice, with 34 per cent of sugarcane growers, 17 per cent of graziers and 25 per cent of horticulture producers adopting improved management practices”, Mr Butler said.

“As a result, we have seen nitrogen levels reduce by seven per cent, pesticides by 15 per cent and sediment by six per cent while dissolved nitrogen, the key pollutant of concern due to its influence on crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, also reduced by 13 per cent.”

Queensland Minister for Environment Andrew Powell said the primary focus of the 2013 Reef Water Quality Protection Plan continued to be on addressing diffuse source pollution from broadscale land use.

“Credit must go to the many landholders who are improving their land management practices and playing their part in protecting the reef,” Mr Powell said.

“We are working closely with industry, landholders, natural resource management bodies and community groups to accelerate the uptake of practices that maximise reef water quality while maintaining and enhancing profitability and environmental performance.

“Ultimately, we need a healthy and resilient reef that supports world class tourism and other industries.”

The 2013 Reef Water Quality Protection Plan has been guided by a scientific consensus statement developed by a multidisciplinary group of scientists, with oversight from the Reef Plan Independent Science Panel. The consensus is that reef ecosystems are showing declining trends in condition due to poor water quality, cumulative impacts of climate change and increasing intensity of extreme weather events.

“In spite of solid improvement, data tells us that poor water quality is continuing to have a detrimental effect on reef health. To secure the resilience of the Great Barrier Reef it is critical that we build on the momentum of the previous Reef Plan with a focus on improving water quality and land management practices through ambitious but achievable targets,” Mr Butler said.

For more information about the 2013 Reef Water Quality Protection Plan and the 2011 Great Barrier Reef Report Card, visit