Projects help halt reef degra­da­tion

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

THE Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has agreed to fund projects to con­trol ero­sion and sed­i­ment run-off into the Great Bar­rier Reef and force down crownof-thorns starfish num­bers.

This takes the form of $15 mil­lion, taken from the $140 mil­lion Reef Trust, be­ing al­lo­cated to projects such as a ten­der to re­duce fer­tiliser run-off from cane farms and $7 mil­lion to cull the crown-ofthorns.

The move is largely in re­sponse to the threat from the World Her­itage Com­mit­tee to see the Great Bar­rier Reef listed as “in dan­ger”.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Greg Hunt has in­di­cated the gov­ern­ment’s be­lief is this will not even­tu­ate, say­ing the gov­ern­ment “knows the reef re­tains the val­ues for which it was listed as a World Her­itage site in 1981”.

How­ever, the lat­est Great Bar­rier Reef Out­look Re­port shows more than half of th­ese val­ues are in decline.

On the back of such knowl­edge, many sci­en­tists and ac­tivists are urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to pledge at least $1 bil­lion to halt the decline of the reef.

How­ever, the gov­ern­ment has said any fur­ther cash in­jec­tions would be in­formed by an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert panel.

Fed­eral Mem­ber for Daw­son Ge­orge Chris­tensen, has also en­tered the de­bate, ref­er­enc­ing a re­port from the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Marine Science, which shows reef health im­proved from 2012-13 to 2013-14.

“This re­port card shows the reef is re­cov­er­ing and get­ting health­ier, and this shows that the Ab­bott gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­ven­tion mea­sures are work­ing,” Mr Chris­tensen said.

Mr Chris­tensen went a step fur­ther, say­ing he was right in his claims that the re­gion could see job growth with­out im­pact­ing the reef.

“This is what I’ve said all along,” he said. “Now I ex­pect we will hear some praise for our ac­tions from the ex­treme green move­ment.”

Although Mr Chris­tensen ac­knowl­edged sci­en­tists said it was hard to know whether this im­prove­ment was due to bet­ter land man­age­ment or sim­ply weather fac­tors, he has called for the com­mu­nity to “give credit where credit is due”.

“This gov­ern­ment has in­vested heav­ily in mea­sures to im­prove wa­ter qual­ity through the Reef Trust and the re­search shows that we are now see­ing that im­prove­ment,” he said.

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