The Great Barrier Reef, a national treasure and international icon, has received a massive funding of $500 million that will be funnelled to various channels, all dedicated to the preservation and survival of the reef. Pledged by the Turnbull government, this is the largest single investment made by the Australian government towards the reef.
Dubbed as a “game changer” by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the fund will be invested in finding solutions to the imminent dangers faced by the reef today. Some of the biggest threats faced by the reef today include back-to-back coral bleaching which is primarily by global warming, the crown-of-thorns starfish infestation, and pesticide run-off which contributes to the rapid breeding of the said starfish.
Part of the funding will be allocated directly to the farmers to help them change their practices and effectively reduce the amount of residual pesticide from their farms which eventually pollute the reef and provide the perfect breeding conditions for the crown-of-thorns starfish, a kind of starfish that feeds on corals.
Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg, also said that a significant chunk of the money will go to research and data management.
In addition to the initial amount, the Marine Park authority is slated to receive a separate $42.7 million funding in the next six years for its joint management program, and another $10 million guaranteed annual funding for field management, ensuring long-term support for the reef conservation.
While the announcement is met mostly with cheer, some criticism couldn’t be avoided. Jon Brodie, a professor at James Cook University’s Coral Reef Studies Centre of Excellence, says on his interview with Reuters that the funding is simply an extension of the current programs which has failed. He says, “It’s not working, it’s not achieving major water quality improvements.”
On the other hand, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop states that Australia’s Reef 2050 plan had been approved by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and will be the standard that the rest of the world will follow in terms of reef protection and management.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Dr Russell Reichhelt says that pledge will contribute greatly to the ongoing reef programs and will provide them with the opportunity to seek co-funding from private investors and philanthropists. The reef currently provides over 64,000 jobs which are worth about $6 billion to the economy and attracts as much as 2 million visitors a year — a few other reasons why its survival is considered one of the top priorities of the government.