The Great Barrier Reef is the largest, most complex coral reef ecosystem in the world. It's facing increased pressures from population and economic growth, and climate change. Strategic assessments let us consider impacts to protected matters on a broad scale. Actions covered by a strategic assessment do not need individual approval.
Strategic assessments are a collaboration between the Australian Government and an assessment partner. This collaboration allows for a big-picture approach to safeguarding protected matters from the impacts of development over a long time.
The Great Barrier Reef (QLD) strategic assessment has been finalised, with a plan endorsed by the Environment minister. However, the minister has not approved the taking of actions in accordance with the endorsed plan.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the richest, most diverse natural ecosystems on Earth. At 348,000 km2, it's also the world's largest, most extensive coral reef. In 1981, the site was declared a World Heritage Area to recognise its outstanding universal value.
The Australian Government and the Queensland Government share responsibility for managing the Great Barrier Reef. Both governments are committed to maintaining the reef's World Heritage status, and ensuring it remains one of the best-managed marine protected areas in the world.
In June 2011, the World Heritage Committee asked the Australian Government to complete a strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. This request included developing a long-term plan for sustainable development that protects the area's unique qualities.
Both governments, working with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), agreed to complete a comprehensive strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef and its adjacent coastal zone.
The assessment was carried out according to section 146 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
The assessment had 2 key components:
- a marine component
- a coastal zone component.
The GBRMPA led the marine strategic assessment. This looked at the Great Barrier Reef Region, as defined in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, and all areas outside the region that could affect it. The assessment also included all management arrangements under GBRMPA's authority, plus its partnerships and collaborations.
The Queensland Government led the coastal zone strategic assessment. This looked at the Queensland Government’s coastal management, planning and development framework concerning the Great Barrier Reef coastal zone. It also included catchment areas with water quality management arrangements that apply to the reef.
The comprehensive strategic assessment has helped to identify, plan for and manage existing and emerging risks to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and adjacent coastal zone. This ensures the ongoing protection and management of the area's unique environmental values. The assessment included:
- investigating if existing management arrangements are adequate
- assessing current and future development policies and planning
- analysing the likely direct, indirect and cumulative effects of these policies and planning on the Great Barrier Reef and adjacent coastal zone.
Figure 1. The Great Barrier Reef general reference map.
The Australian Government also invested in new research to inform the strategic assessment. This was funded by the Sustainable Regional Development program. The research:
- addressed key information gaps relating to managing the site in future
- provided valuable input to the Long-Term Sustainability Plan for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, as requested by the World Heritage Committee.
These funded projects build on the substantial research investment the Australian Government has made through the National Environmental Research Program Tropical Ecosystems Hub.
Read more about the research to support the Great Barrier Reef Strategic Assessment.
The strategic assessment agreements for the marine and coastal zone components were signed on 16 February 2012.
These agreements describe the:
- process to follow for assessment
- requirements under national environmental law.
Agreement for a strategic assessment by the Queensland Government for the Great Barrier Reef coastal zone (PDF 441.55 KB)
Agreement for a strategic assessment by the Queensland Government for the Great Barrier Reef coastal zone (DOCX 121.15 KB)
Agreement for a strategic assessment by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for the Great Barrier Reef Region (PDF 484.65 KB)
Agreement for a strategic assessment by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority for the Great Barrier Reef Region (DOCX 132.21 KB)
Terms of reference
The terms of reference for a strategic assessment detail how the strategic assessment partner is to assess the impacts of their proposed development activities.
On 30 August 2013, the Environment minister approved the terms of reference for the strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
The approved terms of reference account for:
- the World Heritage Committee's decision of 6 July 2012
- the UNESCO World Heritage Centre–International Union for Conservation of Nature reactive monitoring mission report
- consultations with GBRMPA and the Queensland Government
- public comments received on the draft.
- terms of reference for the Great Barrier Reef coastal zone strategic assessment (PDF)
- terms of reference for the Great Barrier Reef Region strategic assessment (PDF).
Public consultation is a statutory requirement for strategic assessments. The GBRMPA and the Queensland Government released draft strategic assessment and program reports for public consultation from 1 November 2013 to 31 January 2014.
The public consultation process allowed the community to have a say in the future management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and adjacent coastal zone. These submissions helped to inform the final reports for the Great Barrier Reef Strategic Assessment.
The processes used for the public consultation, including an analysis of submissions, were summarised in a separate report - public consultation report for the Great Barrier Reef strategic assessment (PDF).
Stakeholders were asked for permission to publicly release their submissions on the draft strategic assessment reports - public submissions approved for release.
The Australian Government also commissioned Sinclair Knight Merz to complete independent reviews of the coastal zone and the Great Barrier Reef Region strategic assessments. These involved reviewing the draft strategic assessment and program reports for both assessments.
- independent review report of the Great Barrier Reef Coastal Zone Strategic Assessment
- independent review report of the Great Barrier Reef Region Strategic Assessment.
The strategic assessment reports were developed according to the terms of reference. The program reports and supplementary reports address:
- matters raised in the independent review of the draft reports
- comments received during the public consultation process.
Great Barrier Reef Region
Great Barrier Reef Long-Term Sustainability Plan
The Australian and Queensland Governments worked together to create the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (the Reef 2050 plan). This plan forms part of the Australian Government's response to the World Heritage Committee's 2011 and 2012 requests for a long-term plan for sustainable development to protect the outstanding universal value of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Reef 2050 plan is Australia’s overarching strategy to improve the Great Barrier Reef’s health and resilience. It used the comprehensive strategic assessment to identify areas for action and address gaps for future management. The plan delivers coordinated local, national and global action in key areas.
Find out more about the Reef 2050 plan.
An information sheet was released for public consultation from 1 November 2013 to 31 January 2014. Comments received during the consultation period informed the development of the Great Barrier Reef Long-Term Sustainability Plan.
Independent review of the Port of Gladstone
In February 2013, the Australian Government commissioned an independent review of the environmental management of the Port of Gladstone. This review was in response to the World Heritage Committee's decision in 2012 about the ongoing protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef.
The review resulted in findings relevant not only to the Port of Gladstone, but also to other ports adjoining the Great Barrier Reef. The outcomes of the review informed the:
- comprehensive strategic assessment
- Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.
On 19 August 2015, the Australian Government agreed, or agreed in principle, with all the review's recommendations that fall within its jurisdiction.
Find out more about the independent review of the Port of Gladstone.
On 11 August 2014, the GBRMPA and the Queensland Government's final Strategic Assessment Programs were endorsed under part 10 of the EPBC Act.
The GBRMPA is responsible for ongoing post-approval monitoring to meet its statutory requirements.
Get in touch
Contact our Referrals Gateway team:
- Email: email@example.com
- Phone: 1800 423 135 between 9 am and 5 pm Canberra time.