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Government failures put reef world heritage status

A new report shows the Australian and Queensland Governments are failing to act on the World Heritage Committee’s major concerns about the Great Barrier Reef.

UNESCO’S World Heritage Committee has made a series of recommendations on improving management of the Reef and asked the Australian Government to report on progress by 1 February 2014. The Committee meets in Doha, Qatar this June and without substantial progress it could list the Great Barrier Reef as World Heritage in Danger.

WWF-Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society today released the 72 page report, which assesses progress on the recommendations, and an accompanying scorecard which lists the government failures.

Of the seven detailed recommendations from the World Heritage Committee the Australian and Queensland Governments have failed to make “good progress or completed” any of them.

Some of the major concerns detailed in the report are:

• Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt recently approved four major developments within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. This includes the dumping of dredge spoil in Reef waters in direct contravention of one of the World Heritage Committee’s recommendations

• The Federal Government is handing over environmental approval powers to the Queensland Government just as the Queensland Government is watering down state legislation in ways that “actively impede” protection of the Reef.

• The health of the Reef continues to decline and “If pollution impacts are not properly addressed through greatly increased investment and on-ground action, it is highly unlikely that the Outstanding Universal Value of the Great Barrier Reef will be conserved.”

• Halting and reversing the overall declining condition of the Reef won’t be possible using current management approaches

“We’re going backwards on the Reef – that’s the sad truth,” said WWF Reef Campaign Director Richard Leck.

“What we get from the Australian and Queensland governments is lots of talk but very little action.

“The reality on the ground is that major destructive industrial projects that involve outdated practices like dumping dredge spoil in Reef waters continue to be approved.

“Our World Heritage Status for the Reef is on the line. Do we really want to join the list of shame and have the Reef declared World Heritage in Danger? Imagine the impact that would have on our tourism industry?” he said.

AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Director, Felicity Wishart, said governments had dropped the ball.

“It seems the Federal and Queensland governments either don’t understand what’s at stake or worse they’re deliberately ignoring the World Heritage Committee,” she said.

“This is serious – our governments have botched or defied the World Heritage Committee's key recommendations about the Reef.

“With plans by the Federal Government to hand over its environmental approvals to the Queensland Government, which is busy stripping away environmental protection, it is a recipe for disaster for the Reef.”

ENDS

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