Reef budget met with caution by local operators

Published Thursday 5 May 2016

THE federal budget injection of $170million to protect the Great Barrier Reef has been met with cautious optimism by Port Douglas reef operators.

With coral bleaching widely reported to be at an all time high, the government’s decision to focus $101million over the next six years on dangers to the reef have been welcomed by local operators, so long it was used towards the ‘real’ threats.

Calypso Reef Cruises owner Cathie Jones said the money needed to be spent on better reef education and solving pollution and water quality concerns, and shouldn’t be ‘wasted on bureaucracy’.

“We’re always going to need more money for the Great Barrier Reef, but it’s a start,” Jones said.

“Hopefully the money will be used towards better water quality and education. We need to educate people about not polluting in their own back yard and littering, it’s all important and plays a vital role in preserving the reef.

“We need to use the money wisely because so much of it is wasted on red tape.”

The $101million is part of the Reef 2050 plan, while a further $70million will go into the Reef Trust specifically designed to improve water quality and coastal environments such as reducing crown-of-thorns starfish.

Colin Simpson, who runs Indigo Charters out to the Low Isles, remained skeptical on whether the money would be poured into the right areas. He echoed Jones’ sentiments that more education was key, and added better regulations needed to be looked at ‘across the board’ for bigger operators.

“When they come out and say they’re putting money into focusing on things, I get doubtful if anything will actually get done,” Simpson said.

“Focusing on the region, having the reef in the budget, and getting people talking about the reef is a good thing.

“But I want to see more actually done and I don’t want it to be swallowed up by bureaucracy.

“You can’t throw money at coral bleaching as it’s a natural phenomenon.”

Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said the funds were not ‘just talk’ and would help make the reef more resilient in light of climate change and the current coral bleaching event.

“We’ve already committed nearly $100million from the now $210million Reef Trust to real and tangible things,” Entsch said.

“Our work to protect the great Barrier Reef resulted in the World Heritage Committee declaring last July that Australia was a global role model for the management of World Heritage properties and that the Reef would not be listed ‘in danger’, but would instead be returned to full status.”

Entsch said the new money forms part of a projected investment of more than $2billion to protect the reef over the next 10 years.