Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the major drivers of international visitors.
Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of the major drivers of international visitors. Darren Jew

$137m for Great Barrier Reef but no action on shipping

THE Rudd government has released details of $137 million in Great Barrier Reef funding, but has not released any new policies to protect the World Heritage status of the reef.

Environment Minister Mark Butler released details of the funding - which was provided in the May budget - in Townsville on Friday.

The Reef Rescue funds included $64 million for farmers to cut sediment and nutrient run-off, $26 million to restore wetlands and $21 million for water quality monitoring.

Mr Butler said the scale of the investment reflected "how seriously we are taking the challenges facing the reef"- but he did not reveal details of the remaining $64 million already allocated.

Most of the funds announced would go to natural resource management groups, including Queensland's largest, the Fitzroy Basin Association.

But the money did not address the core problems associated with new port development and the increasing impacts of shipping.

Australian Marine Conservation Society reef campaigner Felicity Wishart said the election announcement did not address "the destructive impacts of rapid industrialisation" near the reef.

It also comes after Mr Butler deferred a decision on the approval of a port expansion at Abbot Point, diffusing it as an election issue.

Ms Wishart said she welcomed the funds, but said it did nothing to "rein in the plans for five mega-ports and more dredging, dumping and shipping through the reef".

"It's a missed opportunity that could hasten the destruction of the much-loved natural wonder," she said.

"The ALP previously supported a Greens motion in the Senate in June 2013 to end the practice of dumping dredge spoil on the reef but it has fallen far short by failing to follow through with an election commitment for the ban."

Neither major political party has announced an election policy on the reef since the campaign began.