Reef plan gets UNESCO’s tick

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

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.

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