Australian Heritage Council response to draft Great Barrier Reef Strategic Assessment

Australian Heritage Council

Media release
13 February 2014

The Australian Heritage Council shares the concern about the future of the Great Barrier Reef detailed in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s draft strategic assessment.

Chair of the Australian Heritage Council, Professor Carmen Lawrence said the draft report makes it plain that a business as usual approach to managing the reef is no longer an option.

“The draft report is a large and comprehensive document reflecting the many challenges in managing the Great Barrier Reef.

“The Council considers the draft strategic assessment is based on the best available scientific information and recognises the authority’s efforts in producing such a comprehensive document.

“The Council shares the concern of many Australians over the future of the reef and considers the draft report has clearly and correctly identified the many pressures on the reef and its apparent decline.

“Of particular concern to the Council are the findings of serious decline in the condition of the Great Barrier Reef, especially in the southern part, with threats arising from the rapid expansion of development, including dredging for expansion and maintenance of ports.

“In its submission the Council also notes that the report does not clearly specify what might happen when monitoring shows continuing decline of the GBR and suggests that triggers for action should be identified and commitments made to provide the resources to monitor and prevent further deterioration.

“It is obviously important for GBRMPA to have access to the resources it needs to ensure it can fully implement the actions required to reverse the decline in the reef.

“Given the threat posed to the reef by climate change, the Council also stresses the importance of State and Federal Governments taking actions domestically and in international fora to reduce this risk”.

“Additional work is required to address emerging threats to the northern section of the reef from increased industrial, agricultural and residential development.  The release of the draft report is an opportunity to implement risk management planning for the northern section of the reef, in light of known and anticipated threats.

“The Council would also welcome the opportunity to undertake an assessment the Great Barrier Reef to identify any potential National Heritage values, including Indigenous and Historic heritage values, that weren’t considered when the reef was added to the National Heritage List in 2007.

“The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s most outstanding national environmental assets and GBRMPA’s draft report correctly sets out the threats as real and imminent.

“The Australian Heritage Council calls for a strong and urgent national response to address the threats facing the reef,” Professor Lawrence said.