Debate heats up over UNESCO decision
UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has given the Australian Government a 12-month reprieve before deciding whether or not to add the Great Barrier Reef to an endangered list.
The reef was listed as a World Heritage site in 1981 but at the recent 38th session of the World Heritage Committee, UNESCO warned that without proper management, it could be placed on a list of World Heritage in Danger sites in 2015.
Spokesperson for Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping, Brittney Gregory, said this was the final warning to the government to really commit to protecting the reef.
“If the Great Barrier Reef were to be put on the ‘in danger’ list, it would not only be a national shame, but it would also have a devastating effect on our local tourism industry,” she said. Local tourism operator Tony Brown, who is at the forefront of a campaign to stop sea-dumping of dredge spoil at the coal port of Abbot Point, said UNESCO’s decision had bolstered his concerns.
“We shouldn’t lose jobs in tourism to create jobs in mining,” he said.
“We’re not against mining, but as users of the marine park they need to do best practice just like every other industry is doing. There are better options and they haven’t been fully looked into yet.”
However, the Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has labelled UNESCO’s decision “a vote of confi- dence in Australia’s ongoing management of the iconic Great Barrier Reef”.
QRC’s chief executive Michael Roche said the Federal and State Governments’ progress on improving the reef’s management and health was evident from the recently released Queensland Ports Strategy and Reef Water Quality Report Card.