Could the Great Barrier Reef be added to the World Heritage in Danger list?
Despite a raft of specific programs, legislation and investment aimed at halting its decline, the ecological condition of the Great Barrier Reef has continued to deteriorate due to a range of unresolved issues and new threats.
Find out more at savethereef.org.au
The GBR Marine Park Authority’s Reef Outlook Report 2009 states that the overall outlook for the GBR is poor even with the recent initiatives to improve resilience and that catastrophic damage to the Reef may not be averted.
Along with the adverse impacts caused by polluted farm run-off, outdated fishing practices, and coastal development, the GBR is facing an onslaught of additional pressures from a multitude of new development projects that are currently being considered within and adjacent to the World Heritage Area.
Proposed developments include massive port facilities, mega dams, urban development, open cut coal mines, railways and pipelines – all of which are likely to cause significant direct and indirect impacts to the GBR should they be approved.
At its recent meeting in July 2011, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee expressed its extreme concern about the potential impacts to the recognized values and integrity of the GBR from increased development within and adjacent to the World Heritage Area.
In response, the Australian and Queensland Governments have agreed to conduct a Strategic Assessment of the World Heritage Area under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The purpose of the Strategic Assessment is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the extent and scale of impacts on the Reef’s values that may occur from existing and new development projects within and adjacent to the World Heritage Area. CAFNEC along with other environment groups across Queensland, have been advocating for this Strategic Assessment to consider all direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the GBRWHA and all of the impacts on it. We would also like to see a moratorium on all new development until this strategic assessment is complete.
In March this year the World Heritage Committee sent an investigative delegation to inspect the conservation and management of the GBR World Heritage Area. Beginning their 10-day visit in Sydney, they have travelled through Mackay, Gladstone and Cairns to meet with various stakeholders.
In a demonstration of the community’s concern for the Reef, a “Save the Reef” action was collectively organised by CAFNEC, GetUp!, The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace, timed with the first day of the World Heritage Committee’s visit to Cairns. Held near the Esplanade Lagoon, over 400 people braved the rain to show their commitment to “Save the Reef”.
CAFNEC also met with the UN delegation on 13 March with The Wilderness Society, Terrain NRM, the Environmental Defenders Office (NQ) and the Alliance to Save Hinchinbrook. At this meeting CAFNEC highlighted many local examples of the threats facing the Reef including:
- The LNP’s major new $40 million proposal to dredge Trinity Inlet without an Enviornmental Impact Assessment.
- The Federal Government’s ‘dollars to dump’ fee proposal raising the tax on dredge spoil from $5 to $15 per m3.
- Proposed new mines and port facilities along the coast including Cape York Peninsula (i.e. Wongi in Bathurst Bay)
- The direct and cumulative impacts of coastal development including the Boat Bay Marina, Ella Bay and False Cape
- Improved compliance and enforcement of existing regulations with everything from illegal hunting of turtle and dugong, beach driving and net fishing, and
- Opportunities for more sustainable fishing practices.
The Queensland environment movement is leading a national campaign to seek a resolution from UNESCO at its June 2012 meeting addressing the community’s concern over the cumulative impacts on World Heritage values from the massive increase in development in both the GBR catchments and along he coast.
The environment movement is seeking a resolution from UNESCO that the GBR risks being added to the World Heritage in Danger list unless State and Commonwealth governments halt all major development until the strategic Assessment is complete
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