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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

PROTECTING THE DIVERSITY OF THE GREAT BARRIER REEF


25 May 1999

Federal Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill has launched a key initiative to provide better protection for a range of diverse marine habitats in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Senator Hill said the Representative Areas Program will implement the Coalition's pre-election undertaking to conduct a review of existing arrangements to ensure appropriate levels of protection for all habitat types in the World Heritage Area.

"At the moment only about five per cent of the Marine Park is classified as highly protected," Senator Hill said. "This includes many of the more visually spectacular coral reefs and fish habitats. Unfortunately a number of less charismatic, yet vitally important, habitats and communities are under-protected.

Senator Hill said the Representative Areas Program would involve Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority managers, working with scientists to select a series of representative habitat types and identify possible threats to their viability.

"While land-based regions of high biodiversity, like rainforests, have been extensively mapped, there is little knowledge of marine habitats including the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area."

"Providing highly-protected Representative Areas will ensure a safety margin against threats arising from human activities," Senator Hill said.

"They will serve as environmental insurance policies, providing a sound ecological base from which to maintain the biodiversity that is important for the region's ecological and economic wellbeing."

Public participation is being encouraged, with a wide range of stakeholders including commercial and recreational fishers, conservationists, indigenous groups, the tourism industry and scientists urged to have input into the process.

"This initiative follows on from our recent commitment in the Federal Budget to provide an additional $3.4 million over the next three years for improved surveillance and enforcement and is further evidence of the Government's commitment to protecting the values of the Great Barrier Reef," Senator Hill said.

Contacts:
Rod Bruem (Senator Hill) (02) 6277 7640 or 04 1112 85 82 or John Camplin at GBRMPA. (07) 47-500846 or 0417-766131.

Commonwealth of Australia