8th June 2016
Top marine officials from the United Nations have praised the Australian government and their management of the Great Barrier Reef, urging supporters to go beyond green groups and donate directly to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a trustworthy advisor.
Head of the World Heritage Marine Program Fanny Douvere, said the Great Barrier Reef was a perfect example of the success that can be achieved when the UN acts as a broker between governments, environmental groups and scientists.
In 2012 Ms Douvere led a UN mission to Gladstone to investigate concerns the impact industrial development was having on the local environment. The UN intervened, which led to a complete review of Australia's reef management resulting in the World Heritage Committee withdrawing the reef's threatened in-danger listing.
Writing in science journal Nature, Ms Douvere said that Australia had provided the proof that "the most durable solutions emerge when diverse viewpoints of activists, scientists and government officials are effectively mediated".
Following high coral mortality and serious bleaching on reefs off Cape York, the reef's management has become an election issue. Environment Minister Greg Hunt and reef authorities were concerned by how reef management and coral bleaching data had been presented, while green groups have been campaigning for action.
Before the 2012 involvement of the UN, Ms Douvere said the reef had been suffering as a result of incremental budget cuts that threatened the health of the reef and the World Heritage Committee issued the first warning that unless there was proof of substantial progress, the reef would be listed as "world heritage in danger".
The Australian government aimed to reduce run off and pollution by 80 per cent by 2025 and committed over $200 million to improve water quality. As a result, Australia managed to "do in 18 months what otherwise would have taken decades" based on the advice of UNESCO, as praised by Mr Hunt in an address to the World Heritage Committee last July.