Labor to Give Extra $204 Million Boost to Great Barrier Reef

Labor to Give Extra $204 Million Boost to Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia. (Shutterstock)

The Labor government will give a $204 million boost to the protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef, bringing the total investment in the reef to $1.2 billion (US$751 million).

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek on Friday unveiled the new package, noting it will go into replanting parts of the reef with new corals, catchment restoration, improving fisheries management and a new research centre.

"If we protect the reef, we protect our future. This new investment will bring forward actions that have been long overdue," Plibersek said in a statement.

"We are taking strong and immediate action on climate change and investing a record $1.2 billion to 2030 to protect, manage and restore the reef."

Plibersek said the catchment restoration programs would restore and remediate gully and stream banks to reduce sediment run-off into the reef and improve water quality.

She said the additional funding would also improve water quality by restoring and expanding mangrove and seagrass beds to reduce sediment run-off into the reef and provide critical habitat for marine life.

Meanwhile, $20 million will go into assisting corals in evolving more quickly and adapting to their changing environment, as well as restoring damaged and degraded reefs.

In order to deliver more robust fisheries management and protect threatened species on the reef, the government will work with commercial fishers to reduce by-catch through modifying and upgrading fishing equipment.

Together with the Queensland government, the funding boost brings Australia's total reef investment to more than $4.4 billion from 2014-15 to 2029-30.

Reef Shows Healthy Coral Cover

It comes amid concerns that the Great Barrier Reef is at risk of mass bleaching and deterioration.

However, these concerns have been queried after recent findings show that the Great Barrier Reef saw record high coral cover in 36 years.

 Scientist Peter Ridd. (Supplied)
Scientist Peter Ridd. (Supplied)
According to the latest annual survey from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), the Great Barrier Reef’s hard coral cover has increased across all three regions (27 percent in the Northern region, 26 percent in the Central, and 39 percent Southern) during 2020-21. Most reefs had moderate or high coral cover.
“It just gets better and better,” Physicist and former James Cook professor Peter Ridd said in a Facebook post on Aug. 4.

“The coral cover is now 2-3 times what it was a decade ago. And what about those four supposedly devastating, unprecedented bleaching events since 2016? They must have been massively exaggerated to now have so much coral.”

Previously, Ridd also raised concerns about the government’s intervention in fishery management in the Great Barrier Reef, warning it would restrict commercial fishing and nitrogen use in the coastal waters.

Ridd argued that the Queensland government’s model to measure the number of fish caught is unreliable.

“In reality, the Queensland mackerel fishery is very stable – the fishermen are catching plenty of fish, and the stocks are well managed. And the same applies to tiger prawns and other fisheries that the Queensland government is in the process of restricting,” he said in a Facebook post on July 15.
Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at [email protected].