Reef plan gets UNESCO’s tick
AUSTRALIA’S reputation on the environment has gone from zero to hero overnight, with 18 months of intense lobbying convincing the world enough was being done to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee had been considering listing the Reef as being “in danger” amid fears mining works involving dredging and port expansion would cause further irreparable damage.
But Australia’s delegation, led by Environment Minister Greg Hunt, has had its draft report on future management of the site unanimously approved and the threat to list it removed.
Listing the Reef as “in danger” would have had a significant impact on various industries, notably tourism and shipping.
World Heritage Committee chair Maria Bohmer said such was the global concern over the Reef, more than a dozen nations wanted to address the chamber on the issue.
Portugal’s delegation told the forum it was the most critical of Australia last year, but the draft plan now “looks more promising” courtesy of the new Government in Queensland and Mr Hunt’s efforts “for real positive change”.
Lebanon and Vietnam also congratulated Australia for its response; Finland said it too was impressed with Australia’s “well balanced” plan but Germany still had some concerns.
Mr Hunt told the world forum Australia had “clearly heard” their concerns.
He reminded delegations that disposal of dredging in the marine park had now been banned and $ 2 billion had been pledged over the next decade towards management of the Reef, including doubling the funding to eradicate the crown of thorns starfish.
The forum ordered Australia implement all commitments on its “ambitious plan” to reach all targets and report back to the forum on progress by December 1, 2016.
Greenpeace Australia political adviser Jess Panegyres was also granted permission to address the chamber with an “intervention”.
She said the Reef continued to be in danger and the Government was still approving coal mining expansion.