Australia announces record investment in Great Barrier Reef

Rosemary Collier
April 30, 2018

Australia pledged half a billion dollars to restore and protect the Great Barrier Reef yesterday in what it said would be a game-changer for the embattled natural wonder - but conservationists are not convinced.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said in a televised interview that some of the money would go directly to farmers to modify their practices "to ensure that the reef doesn't get the large amounts of sediment, nitrogen and pesticide run-off which is so damaging to coral and which helps breed this crown-of-thorns starfish".

A major outbreak of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish has been destroying areas of the world heritage-listed reef, prompting a major cull in January.

The funding will be confirmed in the May budget, according to the newspaper.

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"Science is well aware of what is killing coral on the Great Barrier Reef - it's the excess heat that comes from burning fossil fuels", said Bill McKibben, an American environmentalist, author and founder of 350.org, which aims to rapidly end the use of fossil fuels.

And in order to save the reef, the government must tackle the elephant in the room first: climate change, she added.

However, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that Australia was a world leader in managing and protecting its reef, as the government's Reef 2050 plan had been approved by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee as being the standard for the rest of the world to follow.

An underwater photographer documents an expanse of dead coral at Lizard Island on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

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"It's not working, it's not achieving major water quality improvements", he said.

"But these are important initiatives, we continue to invest heavily recognising that all Australians have an investment, have an interest, have a stake in the future health of the Reef".

But the cash splash has been met with criticism from conservationists who have accused the government of not doing enough to address the thing that poses the biggest threat to the reef, climate change.

"You can not protect the reef from puddles of warm water sitting over the entire northern GBR, together with all of the cyclones that came at the same time which were also climate-related. These funds represent an unequalled opportunity to create a legacy of hope for future generations".

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"The reef supports some 64,000 jobs, over $6 billion it is worth to the economy, and attracts more than 2 million visitors a year."

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