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Australia’s $1bn ‘golden band aid’: Is the Great Barrier Reef still ‘doomed’?

An extra $1 billion has been promised by the Federal Government to help slow the demise of the Great Barrier Reef.

The announcement comes just months after Environment Minister Sussan Ley flew overseas and successfully campaigned to stop UNESCO listing the coral system as “in danger”.

Estimated to support 64,000 jobs and contribute $6.4 billion to the economy, there has been growing concern in Australia and around the world about ongoing coral bleaching caused by climate change.

Climate change has resulted in severe coral bleaching across large sections of the Great Barrier Reef. Source: Getty
Climate change has resulted in severe coral bleaching across large sections of the Great Barrier Reef. Source: Getty

Today's funding announcement in Cairns by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, comes in an election year where Queensland could decide its outcome.

The package will be released over the next nine years to help improve water quality, remove feral crown of thorns starfish, stop illegal fishing, and advance new technologies like coral spawning.

“We are backing the health of the reef and the economic future of tourism operators, hospitality providers and Queensland communities that are at the heart of the reef economy,” Prime Minister Morrison said.

“This is already the best managed reef in the world and today we take our commitment to a new level.”

What the Great Barrier Reef package includes:

$579.9 million to help improve water quality

$252.9 million for management and conservation of the reef

$92.7 million to fund adaption research

$74.4 million to support Traditional Owner-led projects

Reef ‘doomed’ as climate change ‘ignored’ by Federal Government

While the move has generally been welcomed by major environment groups, they have also accused the government of continuing to ignore the biggest threat to its health - climate change.

The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Gavan McFadzean warned that without “serious climate action” the funds will not prevent the reef from being “doomed”.

The Great Barrier Reef contributes to an estimated 64,000 jobs. Source: Getty
The Great Barrier Reef contributes to an estimated 64,000 jobs. Source: Getty

“Three major coral bleaching events on the Barrier Reef in five years – a direct result of warming temperatures – has hit the tourism industry hard,” he said.

“The continued burning of coal, oil and gas is overheating the air and the ocean, damaging the reef’s sensitive coral through all-too-frequent bleaching events”.

Greenpeace’s Martin Zavan called it “astounding” that the government has allocated such a large cash injection to help save the reef, while “ignoring” the impact of fossil fuels.

“It’s an indisputable scientific fact that the Reef is in danger and that is being driven by climate change,” he said.

“It is inexcusable that the Morrison Government has no credible plan for rapidly cutting emissions and continues to promote and subsidise the mining and burning of dirty coal, oil and gas that are the number one drivers of global heating.”

Funding slammed as nothing more than Band-Aid

With scientists recognising that climate change is the biggest threat to the Great Barrier Reef, the Climate Council, urged the government to revise its "woefully inadequate 2030 target".

Warning another mass-bleaching event is looming, the environmental advocacy group slammed the government spend as nothing more than a “golden Band-Aid”.

"Any additional funding for the environment in Australia is welcome, as it is severely under-resourced," the Climate Council's Professor Lesley Hughes said.

"However, handing out cash for the Great Barrier Reef with one hand, while funding the very industry - fossil fuels - that’s driving devastating climate impacts like marine heatwaves and coral bleaching, means they are adding to the very problem they are claiming they want to fix."

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