We all have a common goal—protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef for current and future generations. The Australian and Queensland governments are jointly investing more than $4 billion in protecting the Reef.
What Australia is doing to manage the Great Barrier Reef
Australia is working to make sure the Great Barrier Reef remains one of the best managed World Heritage sites in the world.
Videos - Protecting the Great Barrier Reef
Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan
The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan is Australia's overarching long-term strategy for protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef to support its health and resilience. The plan is a key component of the Australian Government’s response to the recommendations of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The committee regularly reviews the state of conservation of all properties inscribed on the World Heritage List.
Billion Dollar Reef Protection Package
The Australian Government has announced a further $1 billion investment towards protecting the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem, the Great Barrier Reef.
Through this additional $1 billion investment, we will substantially increase our efforts to protect the Reef, ensure our management of this national treasure remains world-leading, and generate social and economic benefits for Reef communities.
We will invest in the latest marine science, in water quality and on-water management that will play a key role in protecting the Reef and help it withstand the pressures it currently faces.
The Reef Trust is the Australian Government’s flagship investment program to support the delivery of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (Reef 2050 Plan).
The Australian Government has committed over $1.3 billion to the Reef Trust to address key threats to the reef.
On 28 January 2022 the Australian Government announced a $1 billion boost for Reef protection – the Australian Government’s largest ever single investment in reef protection.
At the centre of this investment is the $444 million partnership between the Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program
On Thursday 16 April 2020 Minister Ley and Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef Warren Entsch MP, launched the research and development phase of the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP). RRAP involves government, scientific institutions, industry and the non-government sector working in partnership to develop solutions that put the Great Barrier Reef at the cutting edge of global efforts to help coral reefs adapt to climate change. With the Great Barrier Reef facing its third mass bleaching event in five years, these efforts are more important now than ever.
The launch followed a $6 million feasibility study by a consortium of government, university and non-government partners, led by the Australian Institute of Marine Science. It considered over 160 options for protecting the Reef in the face of climate change. These were narrowed down to 43 concepts suitable for further research and development, to see if they can be successfully deployed at-scale. Examples include techniques to boost the survival of coral larvae, seeding the Reef with specially bred heat-tolerant corals and so-called ‘cloud brightening’ that aims to shade and cool large areas of reef by spraying microscopic saltwater droplets into clouds.
RRAP is receiving funding from the $100 million reef restoration and adaptation science component of the $443.3 million Reef Trust-Great Barrier Reef Foundation Partnership. The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is also undertaking a fundraising campaign to boost collaborative investment through co-contributions and from private sources.
To read more about RRAP, visit www.gbrrestoration.org.
Great Barrier Reef Gully and Streambank Joint Program
The Australian and Queensland governments in 2016 announced the Great Barrier Reef Gully and Streambank Joint Program. This Program is focused on remediating gully and streambank erosion in priority areas to significantly reduce the amount of sediment entering the Reef.
Sediment run-off is one of the biggest pressures on the Great Barrier Reef with gully and streambank erosion contributing significantly to sediment entering the reef. The Australian and Queensland governments, in partnership with the private sector, conservation groups, research institutions, regional natural resource management bodies and industry groups are investing more than $45 million over six years through the Great Barrier Reef Gully and Streambank Joint Program to tackle sediment run-off by fixing gullies and streambanks in high erosion areas of the reef catchments.
Read the fact sheet to find out more about the joint program and how sediment affects the Great Barrier Reef.
Run-off reduction and control of crown-of-thorns starfish
Through the Reef Trust, funding will be provided to farmers and land managers to assist them to implement techniques to reduce run off to the Great Barrier Reef catchment that contribute to crown-of- thorns starfish outbreaks.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority delivers the Crown-of-thorns Starfish Control Program. Additional actions to control crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and reduce the incidence of new outbreaks through partnerships between managing agencies and marine tourism operators are being funded under the Reef Trust Great Barrier Reef Foundation Partnership. These are building on existing direct control activities being undertaken as part of the Australian Government Reef Program.
- Crown of thorns starfish control - Great Barrier Reef Foundation
Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan
The Australian and Queensland governments released the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017-2022 in July 2018. This is the main mechanism for delivering against the water quality outcome from the Reef 2050 Plan and will guide how industry, government and the community will work together to improve the quality of water flowing into the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef is under pressure from many factors—one of which is the poor quality of water running into it from adjacent catchments. The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan has an expanded scope and updated targets that provide a new level of specificity. The plan identifies how the water quality outcome under the broader Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan will be delivered.
The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan addresses all land-based sources of water pollution including run-off from urban, industrial and public lands; while recognising the majority of pollution comes from agricultural activities. Through the five-year plan we will be able to measure the progress being made against identified water quality values.
The desired outcome of the Plan is that Reef water quality supports the outstanding universal value of the Great Barrier Reef, builds resilience, improves ecosystem health and benefits communities.
The Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan is reviewed every five years with the current review due to be completed in 2023. It involves a staged process with key stakeholders consulted throughout. Read about the review at: Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan review.
Implementing the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan
Responsibility for implementing the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan is shared by all levels of government working together with agriculture, industry, urban development and construction, regional natural resource management, Traditional Owners, conservation and community stakeholders.
Investment is sourced from the Australian Government’s Reef Trust program, National Landcare Program and National Environmental Science Program’s Tropical Water Quality Hub. The Queensland Government’s major investment program is the Queensland Reef Water Program with other actions delivered through broader government policy work and programs such as the Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger Program.
Reef Report Card 2020
The Reef Water Quality Report Card 2020 was released on 8 April 2022.
It sets out progress towards achieving the water quality targets set under Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017-2022.
Australia is making continued progress towards the water quality targets. The results show:
- We are more than halfway to the sediment target and almost halfway to the dissolved inorganic nitrogen target. These reductions are mostly due to improved nitrogen fertiliser management and mill mud application in the sugarcane industry and significant investment in fencing to exclude cattle from waterways.
- We are close to achieving the particulate nutrients targets – more than three-quarters of the way for particulate phosphorus and almost three-quarters of the way for particulate nitrogen.
- Overall inshore marine condition improved to moderate in 2019-2020, with water quality improving to good and coral and seagrass remaining in poor condition.
The report card draws on multiple lines of evidence including industry best management practice and extension programs. Science underpins the report card, with all results reviewed by the Independent Science Panel.
The report card outlines results from the Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program. In the future, the Reef 2050 Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Program will provide a comprehensive understanding of how the broader Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan is progressing.
There has been encouraging progress, particularly at a regional and catchment level, with improved practices leading to pollutant reductions.
The Australian Government continues to invest in projects to improve the quality of water flowing to the reef, with over $1 billion now committed to deliver actions under the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan. This includes $201 million dedicated to improving water quality through the landmark $443.3 million Reef Trust – Great Barrier Reef Foundation Partnership. The water quality benefits arising from these investments will be reported in future report cards, as these projects progress.
North-East Shipping Management Plan
The North-East Shipping Management Plan sets out Australia’s plan to enhance ship safety and environmental protection and identifies measures to manage risks associated with shipping in the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea and Torres Strait regions.
Comprehensive strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
The Australian Government, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and the Queensland Government completed a comprehensive strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and adjacent coastal zone.
Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report
The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2019 is a stocktake of the state of the Reef and its outlook, based on the best available information. The Outlook Report is published every five years by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone
As part of the Australian Government's response to the 2012 decision of the World Heritage Committee regarding the ongoing protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage property, the Australian Government commissioned an Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone.
An addendum to the independent review was commissioned in January 2014 so that an independent panel could examine the latest information.
Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement
In 2009, the Australian and Queensland governments developed a Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to secure the long-term conservation and protection of the reef. The aim was to enhance coordinated and collaborative approaches between the Australian and Queensland jurisdictions.
The reef is protected by two complementary pieces of federal legislation:
- the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 oversees activities in the marine park
- Australia's key national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, protects nationally significant matters including the Great Barrier Reef World and National Heritage areas.
These acts provide an internationally recognised world class system of environment and heritage protection. To ensure use of the Great Barrier Reef remains sustainable, activities in the World Heritage Area and marine park are tightly controlled under these laws, as well as other relevant state and federal laws.
- Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975
- Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
In 2006, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 was reviewed and a series of measures proposed to strengthen the legal, governance and policy frameworks relating to the management and long-term protection of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Act 2007
A body of new measures was implemented to protect the reef during 2007 - principally via the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Act 2007. The Act commenced on 1 July 2007 and amended the governance, accountability and transparency requirements of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.
In particular, the amendments provided for:
- a five-yearly, peer-reviewed 'Outlook Report' to document the overall condition of the marine park to be tabled in Parliament and published
- an enhanced process to engage stakeholders in the development of zoning plans for the marine park
- zoning plans to be 'locked down' for a minimum of seven years from the date they come into force to provide stability for business, communities and biological systems.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2008
A second amendment Act - the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2008 - was passed by Parliament on 12 November 2008. The Act put in place a modern, future-focused regulatory framework to secure the long-term protection and ecologically sustainable management of the reef.
A multi-use property
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a multiple-use area in which a wide range of activities and uses are allowed, including extractive industries but not mining. A new Zoning Plan for the entire Marine Park came into effect on 1 July 2004 and protects over 33 per cent of the Park though no-take zones (known also as green zones).
The comprehensive, multiple-use zoning system minimises impacts and conflicts by providing high levels of protection for specific areas. A variety of other activities are allowed to continue in a managed way in certain zones (such as shipping, dredging, aquaculture, tourism, boating, diving, research, commercial fishing and recreational fishing).