23 June, 2013

Great Barrier Reef

The 37th session of the World Heritage Committee is sitting in the Kingdom of Cambodia, in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap-Angkor, from 16th to 27th June 2013.


The 37th session is organized by UNESCO and the National Commission of Cambodia with the support of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.

Last week the World Heritage Committee has delayed its decision on whether to list the Great Barrier Reef as ‘in danger’.

The Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) provides an overarching mechanism for protecting the World Heritage values from inappropriate development, including actions taken inside or outside which could impact on its heritage values. This requires any development proposals to undergo rigorous environmental impact assessment processes, often including public consultation, after which the Federal Minister may decide, to approve, reject or approve under conditions designed to mitigate any significant impacts.

A recent amendment to the EPBC Act makes the GBR Marine Park an additional 'trigger' for a matter of National Environmental Significance which provides additional protection for the values within the GBR.

The Qld Government has welcomed the opportunity to continue our initiatives while further considerations are made over the next year.

The 2009 Outlook Report identified the long-term challenges facing the GBR; these are dominated by climate change over the next few decades.
The extent and persistence of damage to the GBR ecosystem will depend to a large degree on the amount of change in the world’s climate and on the resilience of the GBR ecosystem to such change. This report also identified continued declining water quality from land-based sources, loss of coastal habitats from coastal development, and some impacts from fishing, illegal fishing and poaching as the other priority issues requiring management attention for the long-term protection of the GBR.

Emerging issues since the 2009 Outlook Report include proposed port expansions, increases in shipping activity, coastal development and intensification and changes in land use within the GBR catchment; population growth; the impacts from marine debris; illegal activities; and extreme weather events including floods and cyclones.

Further building the resilience of the GBR by improving water quality, reducing the loss of coastal habitats and increasing knowledge about fishing and its effects and encouraging modified practices, will give the GBR its best chance of adapting to and recovering from the threats ahead, including the impacts of a changing climate.

The Qld Government is attempting to address UNESCO’s concerns and deliver on their recommendations.

They include:
·       Establishing a scientific panel to monitor Gladstone Harbour as part of a $4 million Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership,
·       Committing $35 million each year for reef protection and improved water quality,
·       Releasing a draft Ports Strategy that clearly states our intention to limit port development to existing areas.

The Qld Government has implemented a best management practice programs with the agricultural industry to reduce nutrient run off and improve water quality.

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