Joint media release: Next steps to better protect the Reef

03 August 2023

The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water
Senator Nita Green, Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef
The Hon Leanne Linard, Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef

The Albanese Labor Government is taking new steps to safeguard the Great Barrier Reef from climate change.

This week, UNESCO released a draft decision which recommended the Reef not be listed as ‘in danger.’

The decision cited “significant progress” being made on climate change, water quality, and sustainable fishing.

But we know there’s more to do. That’s why last year the Albanese Government commissioned the Reef 2050 Plan Independent Expert Panel, chaired by Professor Ian Chubb, to provide high-level advice to better inform policy, management and investment decisions.

The Government has asked Professor Chubb to assist with implementing this advice, to ensure we are spending our record $1.2 billion where it is needed the most and where it will have the most impact. We can’t afford to set and forget.

Professor Chubb confirmed there is “a substantial amount of excellent work” that has been done to protect and understand the complexities of the Reef.

But Professor Chubb made a number of recommendations on how investment can be strengthened.

This includes establishing regional planning to make better decisions and ensure funding is going to the places that need it most. Professor Chubb also suggested increasing community engagement particularly with Traditional Owners.

Advice from the report, and supporting work from the Australian Academy of Science, will contribute to Australia’s implementation of the recommendations in the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and IUCN Report on the Reactive Monitoring Mission to the Great Barrier Reef.

Quotes attributable to the Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP:

“The Albanese and Palaszczuk Governments are determined to better protect and restore our precious Reef so it can be enjoyed by our kids and grandkids. I’m proud of the significant steps our Governments are taking, but there is more to do.

“We know that climate change is the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. That’s why I asked Professor Chubb to make sure we are investing our record $1.2 billion to protect the Reef in projects that will achieve the best outcomes.

“There are at least 58 programs that support the Great Barrier Reef, including improving water quality, using First Nations knowledge, eradicating invasive species, and more. We want to make sure we’re investing in projects that give the Reef the best chance of a healthy future.

“We welcome this advice from the Independent Expert Panel that will help shape our plans to protect the Reef.

“I thank the Independent Expert Panel for their considered work and look forward to working with Professor Chubb to ensure we use it to inform our investments on the Reef.”

Quotes attributable to the Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Senator Nita Green:

“We are committed to protecting Australia’s great natural wonder and supporting the 64,000 jobs that depend on it.

“This advice from the Expert Panel and the Australian Academy of Science confirms the importance of the interventions we have in place to protect, restore and conserve the Great Barrier Reef.

“Working with our partners including the Queensland Government, organisations, Traditional Owners and local communities, we are continuing to gather important information and scientific knowledge that will help to future proof the Reef.”

Quotes attributable to Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Leanne Linard:

"I welcome the release of the advice from the Independent Expert Panel and the recommendations made to enhance our response to protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

“This is an area where we cannot afford to rest. The Palaszczuk and Albanese Governments are continuing to work together to enhance our response to the threats facing the reef.

“Since 2015, the Palaszczuk Government has been taking strong action to protect the iconic Great Barrier Reef.

“We’ve invested $1 billion, including committing $270 million to drive water quality improvements by preventing pollutants such as sediment, nutrients, and pesticides from running into Reef waters.

“We’ve set bold emissions reductions targets and have almost reached our 2030 emissions reduction target of 30% reduction below 2005 levels nine years early, with emissions already reduced by 29% based on the latest 2021 data.

“We have introduced strong vegetation management laws that are working, and we have acted on sustainable fishing by significantly reducing net fishing and other high risk fishing activities impacting the Reef, including making the Great Barrier Reef gillnet free by mid-2027."