Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to announce AUS $1 billion will go towards improving water quality, reef management and research for the Great Barrier Reef today in Cairns, but draws renewed climate criticism.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiled the nearly decade-long conservation package days ahead of a February 1 deadline set by UNESCO to submit a report on the reef's state of conservation, and months after it narrowly avoided being placed on the UN's cultural agency's "danger" list due to the threat of climate change.
The funding will support new climate adaptation technology, investment in water quality programs, and protect key species in the biodiverse reef, said the Prime Minister.
Billed by the government as the “single largest investment” in the reef, the nine-year investment includes more than half a billion dollars for water quality, covering work on erosion, land condition, and reducing runoff of pesticides and nutrients. Another $253m will specifically address reef management and conservation, including work from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to combat crown-of-thorns starfish and prevent illegal fishing.
The government hopes the new funding will help protect more than 64,000 jobs and $6.4 billion in tourism dollars attached to the reef economy.
Scientists have welcomed the money but warn it does not tackle the reef's overriding threat of climate change.
“Any additional funding for the environment in Australia is welcome, as it is severely under-resourced. However, handing out cash for the Great Barrier Reef with one hand, while funding the very industry – fossil fuels – that’s driving devastating climate impacts like marine heatwaves and coral bleaching, means they are adding to the very problem they are claiming they want to fix.”
— Climate Councillor, climate scientist and Distinguished Professor of Biology at Macquarie University, Professor Lesley Hughes