7 May 2015


WWF-Australia said the Reef Ministerial Taskforce announced today has a good mix of skills and expertise.

“We welcome the Queensland Government for delivering on its election commitment to establish the Taskforce,” said WWF spokesperson Nick Heath.

“This is a critical step in tackling one of the biggest threats to the Great Barrier Reef: agricultural pollution."

“The Queensland Government has brought together a strong team with expertise in science, water quality, grazing, agriculture, tourism, resources, conservation, planning, economics and regional communities."

“They will need every bit of that expertise because they have a big job ahead,” Mr Heath said.

The Reef 2050 Plan has set a target of reducing nitrogen pollution by up to 80%, and sediment run-off by up to 50%, by 2025.

“These goals are based on scientific advice about what’s required to save the Reef but no strategy so far has achieved reductions anywhere near these targets,” Mr Heath said.

“The Taskforce will report within a year on the best means to achieve the targets and will consider robust regulations and a market-based trading mechanism."

“WWF believes putting a legislative cap on pollution must also be on the table,” he said.

Both governments have committed $100 million each towards reducing the pollution flowing to the Reef over the next five years but the six NRM groups covering the Reef say $784 million in additional funding is needed in the first five years alone.

“Given that the Reef is likely to generate at least $30 billion for the economy over the next five years WWF again calls for the federal government to lift funding to the scale required to meet these water quality targets,” 

“The Government Reef 2050 Plan needs to be turned into real action and fully funded if we want to avoid an ‘in danger’ listing by the World Heritage Committee,” Mr Heath said.


  • The Great Barrier Reef 2014 Outlook report estimates nitrogen discharge to the Reef has jumped from 20,077 tonnes annually before European settlement to 35,053 tonnes annually now.
  • It’s also estimated the sediment load entering the Reef has more than doubled from 2931 kilotonnes annually before European settlement to 7930 kilotonnes annually now.
  • Nitrogen pollution causes outbreaks of Crown of Thorns Starfish which can destroy an individual reef in a matter of weeks and sediment pollution harms coral and seagrass.
  • An adult crown-of-thorns starfish can consume up to 478 square centimetres (about the size of a dinner plate) of coral each day.
  • Under natural conditions it is thought that COTS populations increase to outbreak concentrations in a 50 to 80 year cycle but modelling based on plausible increases in river nutrient loads over the last 200 years shows they’re now occurring every 15 years.
  • One estimate is that COTS have been responsible for 42% of the total coral cover loss in the Great Barrier Reef since 1985. 

WWF-Australia Media Contact: 

Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571