Great Barrier Reef danger - the world is watching us closely

The World Heritage Committee has ruled that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, one of the great natural wonders of the world, is not now to be classed as endangered. It remains, however, on watch. And the world is watching us very closely.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee is meeting now in Bonn, Germany. At the previous meeting three years ago we were threatened with the reef being placed on the UNESCO Endangered List. How did we do?

World delegates were pleased with Australia’s commitment to saving the Great Barrier Reef, though we remain on notice, lest it be classed as endangered for the 2020 UNESCO conference.

What was clear is just how important the world regards ‘our’ reef. Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef Minister Steven Miles had this to say:

The only surprise really was just how positively every member country spoke, which is, I’m told, a rare thing and a big deal.

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“The World Heritage Committee wants hard evidence that Australia is delivering outcomes in coming years,” said Dermot O’Gorman, WWF-Australia’s chief executive.

Our future plan for protection and preservation

Much of the hope for Australia’s care of the reef stems from the government’s Reef 2050 Plan, an “overarching framework for protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef from 2015 to 2050.” It is this plan that has been submitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

Significant aspects of the Reef 2050 Plan include which banning the dumping at sea of dredge spoil, limiting port development along the Queensland coast, and cleaning up any water running onto the reef.

“The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s greatest natural icon,” said Greg Hunt, federal environment minister.

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Hunt tried to somewhat diminish it as not simply a Great Barrier Reef problem, but that all reefs have “… real challenges such as climate change and water quality”.

Mr Hunt told the committee that Australian governments had already committed $2 billion to protect the reef over the next 10 years, and that an additional $8 million would be added for “enhanced reef monitoring”.

“It has taken significant work but Australia can proudly say that we have already implemented all of the committee’s recommendations,” he said, adding the “interest and advice on the reef has allowed us to do in 18 months what might otherwise have taken a decade”, said Mr Hunt.

So far I’ve had a few days on Lady Elliot Island, and I hope the have the chance to visit other parts of the reef, and it looking good, in both the near and distant future.

How important do you regard efforts to save the Great Barrier Reef? Have you visited any part of the reef – if so where, and what did you think?