UNESCO: Reef not in danger
WHILE the UNESCO World Heritage Committee recently recommended against listing the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger”, Whitsunday locals say the reef is not out of the woods yet.
The draft decision from the World Heritage Committee was welcomed by Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who described the move as a strong endorsement of the State and Federal governments’ work.
However, the Great Barrier Reef remains on the UNESCO watch list and both governments will have to provide a joint update to the committee in two years time.
Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association president Tony Brown said the UNESCO decision was a result of the good work done by government in the past three to four years.
But he noted this was only the beginning of a long process.
“Everything is not suddenly changed through this one decision,” he said.
“It’s more of an affirmation that the government’s taking the right approach – however we are at the start.
“We’re all really hoping that the 2050 plan will have the effect of actually helping the resilience of the reef to face further future impacts.”
Whitsunday dive operator Tony Fontes said the decision was “no surprise”.
“There was really never a chance it was going to be in danger. If UNESCO didn’t put it in danger after the Gladstone debacle, they certainly weren’t going to put it in danger this time around,” he said.
“However, it’s on the watch list, which tells us that things are not good.
“Despite the government spin, the reef has not been given a clean bill of health and there is much work to be done.”
Australian Marine Conservation Society Great Barrier Reef community campaigner Cherry Muddle said the decision showed the reef’s health was still in danger and both State and Federal governments needed to do more.
“It’s certainly not the clean bill of health (Mr Hunt) is claiming,” she said.
“What UNESCO have said is the reef is still on the watch list. They’re going to keep a close eye on the government to make sure the plans transcend into real action that will protect the reef.”
The World Heritage Committee will meet in Bonn, Germany, at the end of June to make a final decision on the status of the reef.