Australia announces record investment in Great Barrier Reef

  • Australia announces record investment in Great Barrier Reef

Australia announces record investment in Great Barrier Reef

Australia's federal government is allotting half a billion dollars to help protect the Great Barrier Reef from climate change and other treats.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the money would go towards improving water quality, tackling predators, and expanding restoration efforts.

Crown-of-thorns starfish, which feed on coral, have done massive damage to the reef system.

According to research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science, coral cover on surveyed reefs between 1985 and 2012 declined by about 50% over that 27 year period.

Critics seized on Australia's subsidized development of gas and coal, especially its openness to the Adani coal mine in northern Australia that would be among the world's largest, pushing coal on boats running near the reef.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the reef was under a lot of pressure but those challenges could be overcome.

It is also under threat from the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish, which has proliferated due to pollution and agricultural runoff.

Climate change also affected the creatures that live in the reef system.

"The reef supports some 64,000 jobs, its worth to the economy is over AU$6 billion and it attracts more than 2 million visitors a year", Frydenberg told ABC.

"We have seen right across the world a number of reefs being hit by this heat stress and this is combined here in Australia with also Cyclone Debbie as well as the Crown-of-thorns starfish", he said.

"We are looking at a whole range of new initiatives, taking best advice of the experts, working closely with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to ensure that the reef has its best chance into the future".

The bulk of the new funding - just over $151 million - was earmarked to improve water quality by changing farming practices and adopting new technologies and land management.

The government, in a partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, will contribute $444 million.

The reef is a critical national asset, contributing nearly $5 billion a year to the Australian economy.