Tony Abbott says improving water quality will save the Great Barrier Reef but report says climate change is "single biggest threat"

Photo: Getty Images

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the federal government will contribute an additional $100 million to improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef on Queensland’s far north coast.

The contribution is part of the final version of the government’s Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.

While Abbott said improving water quality was paramount to protecting the reef, the report emphasises that climate change is ultimately the greatest future challenge.

Abbott said the plan also focuses on the complete banning of dredge spoil dumping in the Marine Park Area.

“This reef became a heritage-listed place under the late great Malcolm Fraser,” Abbott said.

“This process sets out a policy for the future, it responds to all of the questions that have been asked internationally,” Abbott said.

As well as the $100 million Commonwealth contribution to the reef trust, the PM said an independent expert scientific panel will be established to work on informing the monitoring and allocation of priorities of the trust.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the heart of this program is about better water quality with hard targets.

“We want to make water quality here as good as it can be. Water quality is the key to reef protection,” he said.

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland. Photo: Google Maps

Queensland’s new Environment Minister Steven Miles said the amended plan will boost protection of the reef.

“The key commitments include the limitation on the dumping of dredge spoil from port expansions, a limitation on the number of large ports on the coastline, but also a longer term plan about addressing water quality running into the reef,” he said.

However, the ABC reports the Reef 2050 release does not define set caps or limitations on the amount of maintenance dredging that can be performed.

The World Heritage Committee will decide in June whether the Great Barrier Reef should be listed as one of UNESCO’s “in danger” sites.

In a submission last October, scientific researchers at Australia’s Academy of Science warned the draft plan failed to effectively address key pressures including climate change, poor water quality, coastal development and fishing.

“The science is clear, the reef is degraded and its condition is worsening,” Professor Hughes says. “This is a plan that won’t restore the reef, it won’t even maintain it in its already diminished state.”

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