The Courier-Mail

GREAT BARRIER RELIEF

Our icon is NOT in danger

- BRIAN WILLIAMS

DEFEAT OF THE GREEN SMEAR

QUEENSLAND’S glorious Great Barrier Reef should not be listed as in danger, a critical UNESCO report has ruled.

Scientists have accepted enough has been done to preserve the icon, meaning Australia is almost certain to avoid the embarrassm­ent and tourism damage of a listing

QUEENSLAND’S five-year nightmare is close to an end, with a critical UNESCO report last night finding the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area should not be listed in danger.

Internatio­nal Union for the Conservati­on of Nature scientists accepted that enough has been done by Australia to stop out-of-control developmen­t and reef degradatio­n.

The ruling came despite a campaign by Greenpeace to smear Australia’s efforts.

An in-danger listing would have had the potential to dent the nation’s internatio­nal reputation and devastate tourism on the Reef, which earns Australia up to $6 billion a year.

It also would have blemished one of the defining world images of Australia.

The overriding message of the draft decision handed down in Paris last night by the World Heritage Committee was that UNESCO has rejected the threat of a listing.

It praised Australia for its response including restoring water quality, restrictin­g new port developmen­t and the ban on capital dredge spoil dumping in Reef waters.

It welcomed the Reef 2050 long-term sustainabi­lity plan, recognisin­g that this would provide an overarchin­g vision for the conservati­on of the Reef for the next 35 years.

The draft report said Australia’s response was in itself a “major technical and policy achievemen­t”.

The report noted a further $200 million had been put towards reef repair by the Queensland and federal government­s.

However, the WHC has warned Australia it must report back by December next year on its reef repair job.

A further report must be lodged by the end of 2019 on the overall conservati­on of the Reef and to confirm that the values for which the Reef was first acknowledg­ed as a world heritage area remain in place.

Federal Environmen­t Minister Greg Hunt, who led changes to how the Reef is managed, has received strong bipartisan support from the State Government.

It followed a brutal campaign by the conservati­on movement, whose members went all out to force changes in management to save the only living thing on Earth large enough to be seen from space.

Australia can now confidentl­y expect final approval when all 21 member nations of the WHC meet in Bonn, Germany, from late next month.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles will travel to Bonn to lobby the internatio­nal community to adopt UNESCO’s draft decision.

“This is great news and an overwhelmi­ng endorsemen­t of our efforts and new approach to reef protection,” Dr Miles said last night.

Mr Hunt said WHC officials had told him Australia had set the standard on how a country should respond in such a situation.

“The Reef was put on the watch list under Labor in 2011 and it’s come off under the Coalition,’’ he said. “And I believe it will stay off forever.’’

Mr Hunt said Australia had learnt a lot from the damage that occurred during the Gladstone Port expansion, which led to radical policy changes such as the dredge spoil ban.

I BELIEVE IT WILL STAY OFF (THE WATCH LIST) FOR EVER Greg Hunt

Asked if conservati­onists had played a role in forcing through badly-needed changes, Mr Hunt said he accepted many activists did a wonderful job but he opposed Greenpeace because of its politickin­g.

The draft report makes no mention of an in-danger list- ing, which suggests the move is off the table. If a listing had been recommende­d, it would have been humiliatin­g for the Federal Government which claims the Reef is one of the best-managed world heritage sites in the world.

But WWF chief executive Dermot O’Gorman said significan­t threats to the Reef’s natural wonders remained.

“UNESCO has put Australia on probation,” he said. “Australia must now deliver on its promises to better protect the reef. A key concern for WWF is that Australia’s plan to rescue the reef is seriously underfunde­d.’’

Mr O’Gorman said the WWF recognised that the Federal Government had made significan­t new promises in the Reef 2050 plan that, if fully implemente­d, would boost Reef protection.

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