The Hon. Greg Hunt MP

Minister for the Environment

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP

Minister for the Environment

Australian Government welcomes UNESCO decision on the Great Barrier Reef

Media release
18 June 2014

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has recognised the significant work and progress being made by the Australian and Queensland governments in managing and protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

UNESCO started the consideration of the reef's health under the previous Labor government in June 2011. Since that time they have now formally recognised significant work and progress in reef protection.

I am therefore pleased the Committee did not list the reef as a World Heritage site 'in danger' and acknowledged the significant work and progress.

This is a positive outcome for Australia and we can be proud of our achievements in protecting the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Protection of this vast and priceless ecosystem is an ongoing challenge but 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.

We are addressing the conservation of the reef through a range of approaches - both on land and in the marine environment.

The Australian and Queensland governments are jointly investing approximately $180 million annually in the reef's health.

UNESCO recognises these efforts are starting to show results. The recently released Great Barrier Reef Report Card also confirms significant progress in improving the quality of water entering the reef, despite the unavoidable impact of cyclones, storms, floods and Crown-of-Thorns starfish.

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 long-term sustainability plan for public comment before the one stop shop approvals bilateral with Queensland is finalised.

The $40 million 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, with advice from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Investment through the Reef Trust is in addition to the Australian Government's current five-year programme of actions aimed at improving 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.

We are also finalising the North-East Shipping Management Plan which will prevent or mitigate ship-sourced pollution and other environmental impacts associated with the projected growth of shipping over the next 10 years in the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea and Torres Strait regions.

Australia is focusing port development in priority port development areas and protecting pristine 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 Great Barrier Reef is facing challenges but we are absolutely committed to protecting and improving the health of this iconic natural wonder so it can be enjoyed by future generations.

Greg Hunt

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