Coalition pledge to reef
THE Coalition has pledged $40 million in a Reef Trust to ensure the long-term protection of the Great Barrier Reef, but there is no guarantee any of the money will be spent in the north.
In the lead up to the federal election this Saturday, the Coalition has released its Reef 2050 Plan and incumbent member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said the Trust will be boosted with offset contributions.
‘‘Money going up in this region through the reef rescue program is definitely money that will continue, to support any initiatives for land holders,’’ he said.
‘‘The greatest offset contributions are coming out of Gladstone harbour and projects south of us and there are a couple of hot spots further south that need work, but most problems start north of here and at the end of the day we have got to manage the reef as a whole.
‘‘It’s in nobody’s interest to see huge areas totally neglected. The management of the reef has to be a whole reef initiative.’’
The plan will bring the government together with all of the various agencies and continue on successful and critical programs including crown of thorns starfish eradication and Reef Rescue, which works with the agricultural industry to reduce nutrient runoff and sediment reaching the ocean.
‘‘If you ever want to talk about pioneers in best practice you can’t go further than farmers of the Douglas Shire. They do not get the recognition they deserve. The government funds are insignificant compared to the costs the farmers have imposed on themselves and it’s the same in the fishing industry,’’ Mr Entsch said.
‘‘I think they need to be listened to and look at ways of re-prioritising Reef Rescue funding to areas other than nutrient run-off, it’s gone so far, now it’s time to look at other pro- grams that could further enhance the water quality in the GBR and that will be funded through this Reef Trust.’’
The Reef Trust will identify priority issues for funding allocation, to help focus on the areas of high priority and will include a turtle and dugong plan, to give authority for local indigenous rangers to prosecute and confiscate illegal take,
‘‘We are not taking away the rights of indigenous people to hunt for traditional or cultural purposes, it’s not an illegal activity, what it does is give rangers power against illegal activities, for example commercial take,’’ Mr Entsch said. ‘‘It’s also an opportunity for local indigenous groups to go on a voluntary moratorium which can be enforced.’’
Meanwhile Australian Labor Party candidate Billy Gordon said the party would extend Reef Rescue until 2018 with a funding of $200 million to protect the reef.
‘‘Our funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef is part of the single largest commitment ever made to address threats to the World Heritage Area,’’ he said. ‘‘We are taking action to address climate change and further damage to the reef, by cutting carbon pollution, and undertaking a comprehensive strategic assessment of the GBR and monitoring water quality and the Reef Plan.’’