Grim future for Great Barrier Reef

Two reports on the state of the Great Barrier Reef were released on Tuesday by the Federal Government. They both reveal how threats to its environmental health have increased over the last five years and they predict further future deterioration.

One report is the five yearly outlook produced by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), while the other is an assessment prepared jointly by the Queensland and federal governments in response to pressure from the United Nations world heritage body who are concerned for the reef’s protection.

Both reports identify the principal threats to the reef as climate change, run-off from coastal development and agriculture, and certain fishing practices. These long-term causes have, in the last five years, been exacerbated by a series of natural disasters which could, in turn, be attributed to climate change. On this point, the report from the GBRMPA states, “it is already affecting the reef and is likely to have far-reaching consequence in the decades to come.’’

The Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, responded to these two reports by saying they confirm the need for long-term solutions to the reef’s problems and that the chief causes of these problems are poor water quality and crown of thorns starfish.


Opinion: Kiss good-bye to the Great Barrier Reef

So the health of one of the Earth’s most amazing World Heritage sites has declined and the prognosis isn’t any better. No thinking Australian should need these latest two reports to confirm this fact. It stands to reason that if governments continue to allow run-off from the Queensland coast into the waters surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, allow large ships, including tankers, to pass through the marine park and approve massive new port developments such as the dredging and coal loaders at Abbot Point, something’s gotta give. That ‘something’ is the long-term survival of this international treasure which sadly is now ‘protected’ by authorities hell bent on ‘development’ at any price.

To hear and see the current Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, blandly respond to the findings set out in these two reports saying that we need to do something when, only two weeks ago he signed off on the development of the $16 billion Galilee Basin Carmichael coal mine, defies belief. When developed, this six kilometre long scar on the landscape will be Australia’s largest coal mine and all that coal will be exported through the new Abbot Point terminal.

Meanwhile, the Environment Minister reassures us that he’s approved of this development subject to no fewer than 72 conditions. And who, precisely, will enforce all these conditions when confronted by Adani, India’s largest private power operator with a dubious environmental record?

In what appears to be a classic example of the perfect storm for the Great Barrier Reef, the Federal Government is handing back environmental responsibilities to the states, whilst the Queensland Deputy Premier, Jeff Seeney, is offering to discount his state royalties to encourage fast-tracking for the new development.

What do you think? Is this just another case of trash the environment for short-term profits, most of which will go overseas? Why are our so called leaders so fixated on old technology so blind to the elephant in the room – climate change?

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