25 Apr 2016


Following last night’s impassioned plea from Sir David Attenborough to protect the Great Barrier Reef, WWF-Australia today called on the Australian Government to fix a $100 million "black hole" in the budget for critical Reef programs.

In the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce’s Interim Report the Australian Government’s commitment for pollution programs is set out as $300 million over five years.

But the annual budget figures in the report show a $100 million "black hole" in Federal funding with only $198.8 million allocated over the five-year period.

“With the Great Barrier Reef experiencing the worst bleaching event in its history, now is not the time to be cutting funding to Reef programs,” said WWF-Australia spokesperson Sean Hoobin.

“Cutting pollution is critical to Reef health – it helps corals withstand higher temperatures, assists recovery after bleaching events, and also prevents crown of thorns starfish outbreaks.”

“The Australian Government announced $100 million in ‘additional’ funding last year for Reef pollution programs but failed to extend the existing $200 million base funding – thus the budget shortfall."

“There have also been recent announcements that initially appear to be new funds, but are simply a re-announcement of existing initiatives."

“The Federal Government must fix this reef-funding “black hole” by providing the resources in the May 3 budget needed to fulfil its commitment for a $300 million five year program.”

The Taskforce Report also shows an $84 million gap between what the Queensland Government has promised in the next five years, and what is actually budgeted.

“State and federal governments both need to honour the promises they have made to protect the Reef and allocate funds in upcoming Budgets,” Mr Hoobin said.

The Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce report also states that achieving the pollution reduction targets in the Reef 2050 Plan “is likely to require significantly more investment than currently available.”

“Both governments committed to these targets. Fixing these “black holes” is just the start and must be followed by a multi-billion dollar investment in water quality programs."

“The Government could find the money if it cut fossil fuels subsidies and re-directs key savings to restore the health of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Australia has to report to UNESCO by December showing there is an adequate investment strategy in place to support the Reef 2050 Plan.

“Australia found billions to save the Murray, the Reef deserves the same,” Mr Hoobin said.

“Saving the Reef is not just an environmental imperative but an economic one, with increased investment going to support the $6 billion tourism industry which over 70,000 people rely on for their livelihoods.”

As his closing remark in last night’s landmark documentary series “Great Barrier Reef”, Sir David Attenborough said: “Do we really care so little about the earth upon which we live that we don’t wish to protect one of its greatest wonders from the consequences of our behaviours?”

With the Reef now experiencing its worst bleaching event ever, more resources, both financial and human, are urgently needed in order to protect it.

WWF-Australia Media Contact: Daniel Rockett, National Media Manager, 0432 206 592, drockett@wwf.org.au