14 Dec 2016


If the Great Barrier Reef was treated like a productive piece of infrastructure of similar value – like a dam or a road – it would receive up to $830 million a year in funding.

That’s the conclusion of a new report “Investing in the Great Barrier Reef as economic infrastructure” commissioned by tourism operators, farmers, and conservationists.

The report found the Reef should receive at least $547 million a year for operations and maintenance, or $830 million a year if a depreciation allowance is included.

But instead governments currently only invest around $200 million a year on a natural asset which drives around $7 billion a year in expenditure* and supports regional jobs and communities.

In a historic partnership, peak bodies the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Queensland Farmers’ Federation and WWF-Australia joined forces to apply a robust economic assessment to value the Reef.

International consulting firm Jacobs used economic tools normally applied to built assets to determine the Great Barrier Reef’s asset value and annual investment requirements. The report’s main findings include:

  • A conservative asset value for the Great Barrier Reef of $21 billion, based on tourism alone
  • Based on this asset value, an appropriate level of annual investment in the Great Barrier Reef of $830 million (including operations, maintenance and depreciation)
  • Governments should complete a detailed business case to support the recommended higher levels of spending needed to sustain the Reef (it should include the likely significant economic benefits for agriculture as a key investment target).

Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO, Daniel Gschwind said the Great Barrier Reef was Australia’s key international drawcard bringing in millions of tourists and billions in economic activity.

“Nearly 70,000 people owe their jobs to the Reef. To secure the jobs and economic growth generated by the Reef we must invest in the Reef’s health. Our report presents a high level business case for a significant increase in funding for the Reef. Most people would not question the billions of dollars of public funds that are spent on maintaining roads, dams or other important infrastructure and they would also expect adequate funding to protect one of our national icons,” Mr Gschwind said.

Queensland Farmers’ Federation CEO Travis Tobin said farmers have a committed seat at the table to protect the Reef, but need the right level of resources to do the job.

“There is widespread agreement among experts that current levels of government investment are insufficient to achieve the ambitious water quality targets that the Australian and Queensland Governments have set. Long-term strategic investment will be required to reach these targets, and investing in agriculture is an investment in regional economies and jobs,” Mr Tobin said.

WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman said: “Although this report puts a dollar value on the Reef, Queensland Tourism, Queensland Farmers’ Federation and WWF believe it is priceless. This major study puts the case for the Reef in a new way. If we think of the Reef

in the same way we think about major economic infrastructure, like a dam, shareholders would insist on investing much more to maintain the Reef and secure the jobs and economic output that it supports. It is of no surprise that organisations representing over a million Australians are calling for increased investment.”


*A report released earlier this year commissioned by the Queensland Government entitled “Costs of achieving the water quality targets for the Great Barrier Reef” found that $8.2 billion over ten years was needed to deliver on government commitments.

*A report by Deloitte Access Economics estimated that in 2011-12 the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area generated direct expenditure of $7.04 billion, a value-added economic contribution to the Australian economy of $5.68 billion and generated almost 69,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

Of this, tourism generated direct expenditure of $6.4 billion, a value-added economic contribution to the Australian economy of $5.17 billion and generated 64,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

Media Contact:

Mark Symons, WWF-Australia Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571, msymons@wwf.org.au