4th May 2016
The Federal Government has announced an additional $50 million to be spent on projects improving water quality on the Great Barrier Reef, with more announcements to come according to Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt. This comes after environmentalists put pressure on both state and federal governments to fully finance reef protection programs.
The Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce reported late last year that nearly $600 million would be required over five years in order to help reduce the impact of pollution on the Great Barrier Reef. Mr Hunt revealed that the latest funding would be put towards reducing artificial nutrient levels entering the reef including reducing sediment, nitrogen and pesticides through grazing, cropping and plantation management.
The government pledged to announce further funding in the coming weeks, which will equal record investments into science and research, specifically putting it into practical application. Beginning with the process of implementing advice from the Commonwealth Independent Expert Panel on reef science, the government have also created a tropical water quality research hub at the cost of $30 million.
Despite this, environmental groups have called funding into question. WWF Australia said the figures revealed a $100 million 'black hole' in the annual federal budget when it comes to funding critical reef programs. However Mr Hunt maintains that the Federal Government will cover all necessary costs. Ensuring the water quality will ensure a less successful breeding ground for crown-of-thorns starfish which, when coupled with Commonwealth-funded work by marine park tourism operators to eradicate crown-of-thorns, will result in a stronger and healthier reef.
Queensland Greens senator Larissa Waters has been sceptical of the funding program, saying that the $50 million is well short of what is actually required. She called on the Government to stop approving coal mines, stating that throwing dollars at the problem was counter-productive when the Government continue to make the problem worse by approving new coal mines and with bad climate change policy.
Although Queensland Environment Minister Steven Miles accused the federal government of allocating money before the scientific taskforce had a chance to report on how it should be spent, Dr Miles did confirm that parts of the reef were starting to recover from the widespread coral bleaching, particularly areas in Cairns and the south.