Supporting the Great Barrier Reef

Media release

30 August 2019

The 2019 Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report, which I have tabled in Parliament today underlines the critical importance of the Morrison Government’s $1.2 billion investment in the Reef and of its $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package to meet international climate targets.

This five-year statutory review of the health of the Reef, produced by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, examined impacts to the Reef since 2014, including two mass coral bleachings, several cyclones, an ongoing crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak and the impacts of climate change.

The Report highlights climate change as the most significant threat to the Reef’s future, outlining the pathways we can take to strengthen its resilience going forward.

Based on the condition of the Reef and events over the last five years, the report has downgraded the long-term outlook for the Reef’s ecosystem from ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’. This is an outlook we can change and are committed to changing.

The report acknowledges that steps are already being taken to address challenges, and that it might take time to see these strategies translate into tangible outcomes, as in the case of humpback whale and southern green turtle populations, which continue to increase.

The Great Barrier Reef remains one of the world’s great natural wonders and is the best managed coral reef ecosystem in the world. We are committed to ensuring the Reef and the communities who depend on it prosper in the years ahead.

This evidenced based report demonstrates our work with the scientific community to ensure management decisions are based on the best available science.

Already the report is helping to focus strategies under the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, which remains the right plan for the future, including:

  • The launch of  a $6 million, 24m ‘Reef Resilience’ vessel (to enter service in 2019) that will enhance and expand compliance and conservation activities across the World Heritage Area
  • More vessels and more staff on the water to increase compliance and reef management activities 
  • A $57.8 million expansion of programs to control crown-of-thorns starfish in high value locations
  • The Great Barrier Reef Foundation – Reef Trust Partnership’s 2019-20 Work Plan including:
    • $10 million for the Traditional Owner Reef Futures Fund
    • the world’s most ambitious Reef restoration and adaptation effort
    • regional community action plans to enhance coordination and impact of place-based community Reef protection activities
    • supporting existing crown-of-thorns starfish programs and exploration of new control approaches
    • establishment of a Technology Transformation Fund to research innovative Reef monitoring methods
    • The roll-out of a targeted sediment and nutrient reduction program focused on practice change and landscape remediation across seven priority Reef catchments.
  • The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan (joint Australian and Queensland governments) to address all land-based sources of water pollution entering the Reef.

The Report outlines variability in the condition of species and habitats across the Reef’s vast 346,000 square kilometres, highlighting that a number of areas remain in good condition and without exposure to further disturbances, it has the ability to recover.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which has faced the uncertainty of Labor threats prior to the last election, is now in a position to develop national and international corporate partnerships to support its $443 million of Federal funding and its work with communities, scientists and Traditional Owners.

We are seeing results such as GBRMPA’s effective management of crown-of-thorns starfish on 87 percent of the 113 high value reefs subject to control efforts in the last year, the Reef Trust’s $36.5 million Gully Erosion Control Project that is already removing 5,400 tonnes of sediment from catchment areas each year and the $45.7 million Reef Trust Reef Alliance project which has seen 185 cane farmers, 70 graziers and 33 landholders across the horticulture, dairy and grains/broadacre industries improve their practices and improve water quality for the Reef.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority will work with its management partners, researchers, Traditional Owners and reef users such as tourism operators, fishers and local communities to communicate the Report’s findings and encourage everyone’s participation in improving the Reef’s outlook.

The Great Barrier Reef belongs to us all and I encourage Reef communities and stakeholders to consider what role they can play in building the Reef’s resilience.

By working together we can improve the future health of the Reef, the heritage it contains, and the 64,000 Australians who depend on the $6.4 billion Reef economy.

The full Outlook Report is available on the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority website: www.gbrmpa.gov.au

Minister for the Environment