The first report from the Great Barrier Reef Science Taskforce has vindicated community groups’ repeated calls for a significant injection of funds to tackle farm pollution harming the Reef.
The report comes as scientists prepare to tackle what could be the Great Barrier Reef’s largest ever outbreak of coral-eating Crown of Thorns star fish, which have reached plague proportions due to excess nitrogen in fertiliser flowing off the land into reef waters.
Ambitious targets to reduce water pollution on the Reef have been set, including reducing nitrogen pollution by up to 80%, but today’s report says: “A program of this scale is likely to require significantly more investment than currently available.”
“Governments have committed to clean water targets for the Reef and now they need to deliver on these with action and investment,” said WWF-Australia spokesperson Sean Hoobin.
“The experts writing this report could not be clearer. The dollars currently set aside by both the Queensland and Federal Government will not even come close to solving the problem.”
WWF supports key findings of the draft Taskforce Report which states that “transformational change is needed”, including:
A cap on pollution, with existing farms required to have permits to discharge pollution;
Regulation of new developments to ensure they do not increase Reef pollution;
The establishment of a Reef Commission to take overall responsibility for Reef health and program delivery;
Innovation to develop the next wave of profitable pollution-cutting practices;
Incentives and extension to support on-farm changes;
Retirement of high polluting and unprofitable land.
“There are some important new initiatives in the Taskforce’s report that will help give the Reef the clean water it needs to return to health,” Mr Hoobin said.
“However, without sufficient funding these initiatives will remain a wish list.”
Recent studies have estimated it will cost more than $2 billion in extra investment to achieve the new Reef safe water quality targets.
Both the Queensland and Australian Governments made commitments to the World Heritage Committee in June to establish a Reef investment framework in 2015.
Tomorrow’s Reef Ministerial Council is almost the last chance to provide this Reef investment plan or risk failing the first of the commitments that kept the Reef off the World Heritage ‘In Danger’ list.
WWF-Australia Media Contact:
Charlie Stevens, Senior Communications Officer