Springborg takes credit for UNESCO reef decision

UPDATE 2.04PM: The World Heritage Committee's decision to keep the Great Barrier Reef off the "in danger" list cements the LNP as the natural guardian of this iconic world heritage site, said Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg in a release today.

Mr Springborg welcomed the decision however points out his opinion that QLD would not be in this position without the LNP's plan to preserve the Great Barrier Reef.

"The LNP Government did more than any other Queensland government to address the issues affecting the Reef," Mr Springborg said. 

"The Reef was put on the watch list under State and Federal Labor Governments in 2011 and because of the LNP, at a state and federal level, it has come off.

"It was the LNP that drafted and developed the 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan. This plan is now providing the framework to manage and protect the Great Barrier Reef for the next 35 years.

"We also invested $35 million each year to improve water quality and $1 million to help control excessive numbers of the crown-of-thorns starfish.

"It was the LNP that introduced the toughest laws ever to protect the Great Barrier Reef by formally recognising the world heritage area as an area of 'special significance' meaning any individual or corporation causing serious environmental harm will be charged under the most serious offences."

Mr Springborg said while the LNP worked tirelessly over the last three years to preserve the Great Barrier Reef, it is disappointing to see Labor trying to claim credit.

"In reality Labor has had very little to do with influencing the decision and simply adding the 'Great Barrier Reef' to the Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles' title has not delivered Queensland this positive result," he said.

"Queenslanders voted for an honest Government however Labor is making it up as they go and clinging to LNP policies to hide its lack of a plan."

UPDATE SAT 9.17AM: The Queensland Tourism Industry Council and the Queensland Resources Council have both welcomed the UNESCO's decision as Greenpeace points to the devil in the details.

QTIC Chief Executive Daniel Gschwind said the decision will be the right move and acknowledged Australia's strong credentials as an effective environmental manager but that we now needed to implement the plan and deliver on the trust placed in us as guardians of the Great Barrier Reef.

"The Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan, along with numerous other reef research programs and initiatives, demonstrates that Queensland and Australia takes the protection of the Great Barrier Reef seriously but we have to do more," he said.

"If the UNESCO draft decision is accepted it will give us a chance to demonstrate our long-term commitment to address the significant issues that affect the future of the reef," he said.

"The Great Barrier Reef is the jewel in Australia's tourism crown.   The tourism industry understands this and will continue to make a significant contribution to its long term protection.

Greenpeace has also issued a release, saying that by insisting the Australian government prepare a report within 18 months, to be reviewed by the Committee in 2017 UNESCO has clearly shown that the Great Barrier Reef is not fine and is not safe in Tony Abbott's hands.

"UNESCO now joins a long line of scientists, banks, organisations and individuals who are deeply worried about the Reef's health. The Australian government can't talk about protecting the Reef while aggressively supporting the licensing of mega-mine and expansion of coal ports along the Great Barrier Reef coast," said Shani Tager, Greenpeace Australia Reef campaigner.

UNESCO had been relentlessly lobbied by the Australian government, who have continued to insist that the Reef is fine despite the fact that 50% of its coral cover has been destroyed in the last thirty years. Eminent scientists and environmentalists have warned that the Reef is still in danger from numerous threats, including coal mine and port expansions and climate change.

"This decision has been described by some as a reprieve for the Reef. It is not a reprieve - it is a big, red flag from UNESCO. Preeminent Reef scientists have said we can either have coal expansion or a healthy Reef, but we can't have both. The Australian people have made it clear they want Reef protection not more coal. UNESCO has now also sent a clear signal that the Abbott government must fully protect the Great Barrier Reef and that means a reprieve from coal expansion," added Tager.

FRIDAY 22.00: THE Palaszczuk Government has welcomed the World Heritage Committee's recommendation to not list the Great Barrier Reef as "in danger".

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and Minister for the Great Barrier Reef, Dr Steven Miles will now attend next month's World Heritage Committee Meeting in Bonn, Germany to lobby the International community to adopt the draft decision.

Deputy Premier, Jackie Trad said the Palaszczuk Labor Government produced a strong suite of policies during the election to protect the reef and to stop it from being listed as "in danger".

"This was a key election promise and that is why we committed $100 million over five years towards water quality initiatives to help achieve these targets."

"Let me make this very clear - our government is committed to putting the future of the reef beyond doubt."

"We were elected with a mandate to save the reef for generations to come and we intend to deliver on those promises."

"I will be working hard with the Minister for the Great Barrier Reef in Bonn at the end of the month, to strongly argue our case on behalf of all Queenslanders," Ms Trad said.

Minister for the Great Barrier Reef, Dr Steven Miles said the draft decision was a vote of confidence in the measures introduced by the Palaszczuk Labor Government and the actions it was taking to tackle the Committee's concerns about the reef.

"This is great news and an overwhelming endorsement of our efforts and new approach to reef protection," Dr Miles said.

Since coming to office the Palaszczuk Labor Government has implemented a series of measures, including:

  • Releasing the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan - the most comprehensive plan ever developed - to secure the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. This included the addition 19 new and enhanced actions since the Palaszczuk Government came to office.
  • Establishing a Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce to determine the best approach to meet our water quality targets. 
  • Dedicating an Office of the Great Barrier Reef within government to ensure the reef receives specialised attention within government. 
  • Releasing the Reef Water Quality Research, Development and Innovation Strategy, which outlines RD&I priorities to improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef from agricultural land use.