UNESCO approves Reef protection

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Great Barrier Reef Image credit: André Kuipers

The World Heritage Committee has acknowledged the good work of both the State and Federal Governments while deferring a decision to list the Great Barrier Reef “in danger” during its meeting in Qatar, said Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, The Honourable Andrew Powell, in a statement.

Great Barrier Reef Image credit:  André Kuipers
Great Barrier Reef
Image credit:
André Kuipers

Speaking from Doha, Mr Powell said the committee had not listed the reef “in danger” but rather opted to trust the Queensland and Australian governments’ commitment to meet all of UNESCO’s recommendations.

“I welcome this decision by UNESCO’s world heritage committee, which gives Queensland a big tick and it gives the work we are doing a big tick. Our strong plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef is already producing positive results, creating a brighter future that Queenslanders and tourists from around the world can enjoy,” Mr Powell said.

“This decision is also a win for logic and science rather than rhetoric and scaremongering. Despite the best efforts of green groups, we have successfully demonstrated to UNESCO that the reef is in safe hands and that we are being guided by scientific facts and as a result we are achieving positive outcomes.”

He said the Queensland Government has promised to grow tourism as one of the four pillars of the economy, and the Great Barrier Reef was an important part of that.

“When UNESCO visited in March 2012 it witnessed a tired Labor Government in its dying days that had obscene plans to dredge 40 million tonnes of material and literally create a new island off Abbott Point. The former Labor government was refusing to fix the bund wall in Gladstone and failed to engage with the agricultural sector to reduce run off onto the reef. The truth is that the Queensland Government has completed significant work to address those concerns and deliver on UNESCO’s recommendations,” he said.

“We have significantly scaled back the development at Abbot Point and imposed more than 140 conditions on the project. We have delivered our Ports Strategy, limiting development to existing port areas for a decade, and we have outlined our plans to enshrine that commitment in legislation.”

The Minister further added that the Queensland Government has delivered ongoing improvements in the state’s water quality and would continue to work on a strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef in conjunction with the Federal Government.

“This Government has taken action to protect the reef and I thank UNESCO for its acknowledgement of our efforts to date,” he said.

“I am encouraged by the committees’ comments, but I accept there is still more work to do to counter the misinformation and campaign of lies by green groups that seem interested only in damaging Australia’s international reputation. I am confident that we will ensure the Great Barrier Reef continues to be one of the best managed marine areas in the world.”