Coalition announces Reef 2050 Plan
September 2, 2013
The long-term environmental protection of the Great Barrier Reef will be assured with the Coalition committing $40 million for the creation of a Reef Trust as part of its Reef 2050 Plan.
The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s greatest natural asset and is vital for tourism and jobs along the north coast of Queensland.
Australians, and in particular Queenslanders, are proud of the role we play as guardians of the Reef for future generations.
Against that background, the challenges facing the Reef include nutrient run off, Crown of Thorns damage, protection of iconic species such as dugongs and turtles and the need for a strategic approach to future development.
In particular, we will work with the Queensland Government on an agreed strategic assessment for the future of the Reef.
Beyond the strategic assessment, the Coalition has three major components to our Reef 2050 Plan.
1. Reef Trust:
The Coalition will commit $40 million to establish a Reef Trust. The Reef Trust will combine both Commonwealth and private funds to focus on improving coastal habitat and water quality along the Great Barrier Reef.
The fund will be jointly co-ordinated with the Queensland Government and Commonwealth advice will be provided by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and other agencies. The focus will be a strategic approach to improving water quality and coastal habitat.
After an initial injection from the Commonwealth, funding will also be derived from the pooling of offset funds for significant projects under Federal Law.
This would be provided as an alternative to the current practice of individual acquisitions. This will enable a far more effective, strategic and transparent approach rather than the current ad hoc purchasing requirements which are not part of a strategic Reef improvement plan and which in many cases provide limited environmental benefit. The Trust will ensure that there is deep co-ordination of coastal and water quality management.
“This is a major investment in the long-term sustainability of the Reef. It will enable us to break away from ad hoc projects or private acquisitions and allows for long-term strategic investment,” Shadow Minister for Climate Action, Environment and Heritage, Greg Hunt said.
“I hope that in 2050 we look back and note that this was a turning point in how we addressed the threats to the Reef in a focused and strategic way. A particular focus will be to help farmers reduce nutrient run off and therefore maintain or lift productivity while improving water quality on the Reef.”
LNP MP for Herbert, Ewen Jones said: “The Reef Trust will be deeply welcomed by the North Queensland community. We care passionately about the Reef and we also know that its health is critical to our economic health and local tourism and related jobs.
“Labor has let down the Queensland and Australian communities as a result of its poor management of the Reef.
“We know Queenslanders are proud of the Reef and will always ensure that it is protected. The Reef Trust will provide the resources to do that and sends a clear signal to the rest of the world that we take our responsibility in caring for the Reef seriously.”
2. Run Off Reduction and Crown of Thorns Eradication Plan:
The Crown of Thorns is posing the most significant immediate risk to the Great Barrier Reef. Research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science confirms that it has accounted for 42 per cent of damage to the Reef over the past two decades.
The link between nutrient run-off and serious outbreaks of the Crown of Thorns confirms the need to immediately address this issue to limit the damage. Funding for this will be a high priority of the Reef Trust.
Farmers have played a significant role in reducing run-off and adopting new techniques. The funding will assist in giving farmers the support they need to continue that work and ensure it is targeted in the high risk areas.
We will also re-prioritise Reef Rescue Funding to focus on farm run-off and nutrient reduction.
In addition, the Reef Trust will allocate a further $2 million to be invested with the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC) for direct work to help eradicate the Crown of Thorns. The RRCC will work with the Australian Marine Park and Tourism Operators.
Scientific breakthroughs have allowed for a significant reduction in the Crown of Thorns population through direct treatment in high value sensitive areas. This work is currently undertaken by the Australian Marine Park and Tourism Operators with increasing success rates, and this funding will enable that work to be expanded.
3. Dugong and Turtle Protection Plan:
The dugongs and turtles along the Great Barrier Reef will receive greater protection under a $5 million plan.
The Coalition will implement a Dugong and Turtle Protection Plan which will work to protect the majestic dugong and turtle populations of Far North Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands from the threats of poaching, illegal hunting and marine debris.
As part of this important environmental and marine conservation task, the Coalition will provide $5 million for dugong and turtle protection, including:
• $2 million for specialised Indigenous Ranger Programs for marine conservation along the Far North Queensland Coast and for strengthened enforcement and compliance;
• $2 million for an Australian Crime Commission investigation into the practice of illegal killing, poaching and transportation of turtle and dugong meat;
• $700,000 towards cleaning up marine debris along the Far North Queensland Coast, the Torres Strait Islands and in the Coral Sea. Marine debris – especially ‘ghost nets’ – provide significant risks to dugongs and turtles; and
• $300,000 to support the Cairns and Fitzroy Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centres.
Within six months a Coalition Government will also:
• introduce Federal legislation tripling the penalties for poaching and illegal transportation of turtle and dugong meat;
• establish a National Dugong and Turtle Protection Plan through the threatened species process; and
• work with Indigenous leaders towards an initial two-year moratorium on the taking of dugongs.