The Hon. Greg Hunt MP
Minister for the Environment
Strong progress recognised in draft Great Barrier Reef decision
1 May 2014
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The draft decision released today by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre welcomes the progress Australia is making in managing and protecting the Great Barrier Reef.
This is a positive outcome for Australia and we can be proud of our achievements in protecting the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
The draft decision recognises the hard work being undertaken to protect and manage this vast and priceless ecosystem. It is pleasing to note that it welcomes the initiatives Australia is already undertaking to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
We are delighted with the recognition of our progress on and plans to improve water quality. The Great Barrier Reef’s Outstanding Universal Value remains strong.
Significantly, the draft decision recommends that the Committee not list the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger”, and review the matter next year.
The draft decision will be considered by the World Heritage Committee when it meets in Qatar in June 2014.
Our initiatives include carrying out a strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef, developing a Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan to further protect the Reef and coastal zone, and establishing a Reef Trust. We will release the draft of the Long-term Sustainability Plan for public comment before the One-Stop Shop approvals bilateral with Queensland is finalised.
The draft decision also welcomes the intention to focus port development in priority port development areas and to protect greenfield areas from the impacts of port development.
The approval of the Abbot Point development complied with Australia’s obligations under the World Heritage Convention, was subject to rigorous environmental assessment and applied Australia’s world-leading net benefit approach.
The Reef Trust will put the focus firmly on improving coastal habitat, water quality and enhancing species protection along the Great Barrier Reef. It will be jointly coordinated by the Australian and Queensland Governments, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority with advice from the Australian Institute of Marine Science. A discussion paper for the Reef Trust is out for public comment.
Investment through the Reef Trust of $40 million is in addition to the Australian Government’s current five-year programme of actions to protect the reef and improve the quality of water flowing into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon and enhancing the reef’s resilience.
We are also taking action to control crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks including a culling programme targeted at protecting the most valuable tourist areas of the Reef. More than a quarter of a million of the coral-eating starfish have been culled to date.
Protection for the Great Barrier Reef is an ongoing challenge and we are confident that we have the processes, resources and environmental protection mechanisms in place to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef continues to be among the best managed and protected World Heritage areas in the world.