About the Reef Trust
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 and Queensland Government’s long-term framework for protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef.
The Reef Trust provides cost effective and strategic investment to address key threats to the Great Barrier Reef and conserve the outstanding universal value of this World Heritage-listed icon. The Reef Trust has a strong focus on adaptive management, to ensure it effectively contributes to the long-term sustainable management of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Australian Government has committed over $3.7 billion to the Reef Trust to provide innovative, targeted investment in improving water quality, restoring coastal ecosystem health, controlling crown-of-thorns starfish and protecting threatened and migratory species in the Great Barrier Reef region.
The Reef Trust is delivered by the Australian Government. Governance and administrative arrangements ensure all funds are effectively managed and directed towards priority on-ground actions. These arrangements leverage and complement the broader governance structure and processes for the Reef 2050 Plan and the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017-2022, which is aligned and nested under it.
Objectives and Outcomes
The Reef Trust’s objective is to ‘provide cost effective, strategic investment which goes above and beyond existing programs to address key threats to the Great Barrier Reef and catchments for the long-term protection and conservation of the outstanding universal value of the Great Barrier Reef’.
The Reef Trust is designed to direct funding in a targeted and strategic way to deliver against four outcomes.
Outcome 1: Improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef from broad-scale land use to increase the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.
Outcome 2: Improve the health and resilience of coastal habitats.
Outcome 3: Improve and protect marine biodiversity, including the reduction of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris) and protection of listed threatened and migratory species such as Dugongs and marine turtles.
Reef Trust funds may also be derived from the pooling of offset funds for actions that have a residual significant impact on matters of national and state environmental significance.
Outcome 4: Any new development maintains or improves the condition of matters of national and state environmental significance through the strategic delivery of offsets through the Reef Trust.
As an initiative administered by the Australian Government, the Reef Trust has stringent financial, project management and reporting processes in place.
Investment delivered through the Reef Trust, including the contracting and delivery of projects, is in accordance with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, the Commonwealth Grant Rules and Guidelines and the Commonwealth Procurement Rules.
The Reef Trust is administered through the Reef Trust Special Account which was established by the Finance Minister through a Determination to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The Determination prescribes the purposes for spending of funds through the Reef Trust, which must be for projects that improve water quality and coastal habitat, address threats, and protect, repair and mitigate damage to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
How it Works
Reef Trust investments are developed and implemented through a rigorous process of prioritisation and informed by discussions with scientists, experts, on-ground delivery partners and industry groups.
Reef Trust investments are based on the best available science and evidence, complementing the extensive efforts across government, natural resource management organisations and industry to deliver cost effective and strategic on-ground change. Investments:
- address the highest priority threats in the highest priority locations
- protect and improve critical assets through on-ground change
- complement previous and current investments in the Reef catchments
- deliver the most environmental benefit for each dollar invested.
Recommendations of projects for approval by the Minister for the Environment draw on advice from the Reef 2050 Independent Expert Panel to identify actions that will have a long-term impact and are most likely to be adopted across relevant industries. Approval of an investment is provided by the Minister for the Environment under Section 71 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.
Since its inception in 2014, the Reef Trust has developed a number of investment strategies to help guide the delivery of investments and target the Reef Trust outcomes. The Reef Trust’s previous investment strategies are:
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) allows for the provision of offsets for residual significant impacts to Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES) that cannot be avoided or mitigated. See: EPBC Act environmental offsets policy.
In line with Reef Trust outcome 4, for projects where conditions of approval are required to offset impacts on a MNES value relevant to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and World and National Heritage Area, a financial contribution from environmental approval holders can be accepted by the Reef Trust towards offset delivery.
Offsets delivered through the Reef Trust directly contribute to the ongoing viability of the relevant value impacted by the approved action and deliver an overall conservation outcome that improves or maintains the viability of the relevant value.
The delivery of offsets through the Reef Trust follows the same process and governance as any other Reef Trust investment. Offset projects are developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders and the Reef 2050 Independent Expert Panel and provided to the Minister for the Environment for approval.
The use of the Reef Trust to deliver Great Barrier Reef marine offsets is voluntary.
A Reef Trust Offsets Plan has been developed to provide guidance on determination of offset costs, actions and locations for Great Barrier Reef biodiversity offsets delivered through the Reef Trust on behalf of approval holders under the EPBC Act, which can be found at: Reef Trust Tools and Resources.