World Heritage Committee decides: Australia on probation over Reef health

Posted on 01 July 2015
Heart Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
Heart Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
© Ian McConnel / WWF-Aus
Bonn, 1 July 2015 –The World Heritage Committee has delivered a powerful decision that places Australia on probation over the health of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Australian Government now has until 2016 to show that its rescue plan is working and until 2019 to demonstrate it has stopped the decline of the Reef.
Failure to deliver improvements in Reef health puts the Reef at risk of an ‘in-danger’ listing in 2020. 
“WWF welcomes this strong decision, Australia is on probation and the real work to turn around the decline of the Reef starts now,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.
“Today’s decision acknowledges Australia’s recent promises to strengthen protection of the Reef, but makes it clear that promises alone will not be enough. The World Heritage Committee wants hard evidence that Australia is delivering outcomes in coming years,” he said.
The most significant features of the decision are:
  • The World Heritage Committee expressed concern that the outlook for the Reef is poor and key habitats and species have continued to decline, and listed climate change, poor water quality, and coastal development impacts as the major threats.
  • The Committee will continue its vital role as a watchdog to ensure Australia “rigorously implements all of its commitments”.
  • An acknowledgement that the existing financial commitment to the Reef 2050 plan is an ‘initial’ amount – a clear indication the Committee recognizes that the plan is underfunded.
  • If the Reef’s World Heritage values continue to decline, then an ‘in-danger’ listing will almost certainly be delivered at the 2020 meeting.
Mr O’Gorman thanked the 563, 480 people from 177 countries who supported WWF’s Draw the Line campaign and said they should be proud of the strong message that they sent to the World Heritage Committee.
Just 12 months ago, the Australian Government had approved plans to dump millions of tonnes of dredge spoil from mega-port expansions into the Great Barrier Reef’s waters.
Today, that approval has been overturned and WWF expects a ban on dumping from new port development in the Reef’s World Heritage waters to be in force within months.
The Committee’s decision recognises the passion of millions of people from all over the world who have demanded stronger protection for Australia’s greatest natural treasure.”
“The World Heritage Committee should be also congratulated for its vital role in standing up for the Reef over the last few years. The Committee must continue to play this crucial role holding the Australian and Queensland Governments to account and ensuring that promises are translated into real action and improvements in the health of the Reef.”
“WWF expects the Australian Government to build on its recent commitments and move into action mode. WWF looks forward to working with government and the community to bring back the coral, the turtles, and the dugongs and deliver lasting results for the Reef,” he said.
For interviews with WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman in Bonn, Germany please call Kate Rayson on 0439 959 034
For interviews with WWF spokes in Australia call Mark Symons 0400 985 571
Heart Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
Heart Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
© Ian McConnel / WWF-Aus Enlarge