Labor Announces $500 Million Fund For Great Barrier Reef

Improving water quality, battling Crown of Thorns starfish on the agenda.

30/05/2016 5:00 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:53 PM AEST
Fairfax Media
Labor has announced its policy around the Great Barrier Reef.

The ALP will institute a $500 million fund to support a Great Barrier Reef Plan if elected.

The Labor Party long-term reef strategy, which the Opposition said includes "boosting Reef management resources, ramping up scientific monitoring and research and new investment in improving water quality and land management", will be officially unveiled by leader Bill Shorten in Cairns on Monday.

The reef is under threat from climate change and other environmental factors including pollution and coral bleaching. The announcement comes the same day Queensland researchers revealed findings that a third of coral on the northern and central parts of the reef are dead, after massive coral bleaching earlier this year. The research found coral south of Cairns was recovering well from the bleaching event, but that coral further up the reef had a mortality rate of up to 50 percent in some areas.

"The reef attracts more than two million visitors each year, contributes $5.7 billion to the economy, and supports approximately 70,000 jobs," Shorten said.

"All of this is at risk if serious action is not taken to protect it."

Fairfax Media
The Great Barrier Reef.

Labor said the half-billion dollars over five years will include $123 million already pledged by the Coalition, plus an additional $377 million of new money. Among the policy planks is up to $300 million for 'Direct Environmental Investment' for projects that will "improve water quality, reduce runoff, improve and modernise agricultural practices, combat invasive species like the Crown of Thorns Starfish and restore seagrass and wetland habitats".

"If not managed and mitigated, runoff and other impacts from agriculture present serious threats to the health of the Reef," Labor said.

The ALP has committed to reducing nitrogen runoff in the Wet Tropics and Burdekin by 80 percent and sediment runoff by 50 per cent by 2025, outlining a plan to work with the Queensland government and local farmers to reduce runoff from farms.

Labor also made a further commitment for the CSIRO to "conduct Reef-specific science, including climate research, supported by a $50 million targeted funding boost". It is a contrast to the scaling back of climate research forced by the redirection of funding to the science agency under the current government.

Tourism Queensland - Nelson Hall
The Great Barrier Reef.

Another $50 million will be set aside for reef research and allocated among several Australian universities and science facilities.

The reef policy would also boost operations to combat Crown of Thorns starfish.

"Enjoying the natural beauty of our country is one of the best parts of being Australian," the ALP said in its policy document.

"Without a concerted effort, the beauty of the Reef and all it provides, from jobs and income to precious memories, is at risk."

The government has not yet outlined an election policy regarding the reef, but on Monday morning also announced support for a new 'control vessel' to combat Crown of Thorns starfish on the reef. $6 million will be dedicated to boosting the control measures.

"So far around 400,000 crown-of-thorns starfish have been killed through our current operation whereby divers inject the starfish with a saline solution," the government said in a statement.

"With each of these coral-eating starfish capable of producing up to 65 million eggs over the spawning season, these targeted programs are vital in preventing major outbreaks, particularly in key tourism areas that support local jobs."

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