28 Jan 2022


The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia today welcomed the announcement of $1 billion in federal funding for the Great Barrier Reef over the next nine years.

“This is positive news for our national icon and represents a continuation of Reef funding at broadly current levels,” said WWF-Australia Head of Oceans Richard Leck.

“Progress on reducing water pollution has fallen behind the Government’s targets to protect the Reef, so it’s vital that this investment is applied in a way that markedly improves water quality. It also needs to be accompanied by stronger laws to reduce pollution and an increase in enforcement and compliance."

“Above all, action on water pollution needs to be complimented by real action on climate to drive down emissions this decade. The science is crystal clear that the Government must significantly step up their action on climate in order to protect the Reef."

The Australian Government’s announcement comes as global attention is soon to focus in on the world’s most famous stretch of coral.

Scientists are closely watching an underwater heatwave, well above the norm for this time of year. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently placed the northern Reef on Alert Level 2, which indicates severe coral bleaching is likely in coming weeks.

However, monsoon conditions could cool water temperatures enough to prevent widespread coral mortality and authorities are hoping for storms, cloud cover and rain. The Reef has already suffered mass bleaching events in 1998, 2002, 2016, 2017 and 2020.

NOAA coral reef watch bleaching Jan 2022

An IUCN monitoring mission is due to visit as early as next month after the Reef narrowly avoided being placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger last year.

In its decision last July the World Heritage Committee noted “with the utmost concern and regret” the three most recent mass bleaching events.

It also noted “with the utmost concern” that “progress has been largely insufficient in meeting key … water quality and land management targets” as evidenced by the government’s own Reef Water Quality Report Cards.

Then last month shock land clearing figures were released revealing 680,688 hectares were bulldozed in Queensland in 2018-19.

Almost one-third of that clearing (217,419 hectares) occurred in catchments flowing to the Reef. Of this, 85% was exempted from the state’s land clearing laws.

“Cash alone won’t solve the issues facing the Reef. We need more robust protection of trees and to strengthen water quality targets,” said Mr Leck.

“Australia must also commit to a climate policy consistent with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees. Australia becoming the world’s leading exporter of renewables by 2030, and driving down domestic and exported emissions, is the key to giving the Reef a fighting chance,” said Mr Leck.