GREAT BARRIER REEF
// Outlook Report 2014
5.3 Defence activities
5.3.1 Current state and trends of defence activities
The Australian Defence Force has operated and trained in the Great Barrier Reef Region for more than 100 years. Operational defence activities in the Region include ocean surveillance, maritime search and rescue missions, and hydrographic survey and charting. Defence forces also provide critical support for border protection activities such as environment and fisheries protection, immigration controls, and biosecurity. Australian Navy, Army and Air Force bases at Cairns and Townsville serve as the key platforms for defence operational activities in the Region. Training activities are regularly undertaken in designated areas of the Region, covering less than four per cent of the area (Figure 5.9). While most of the designated defence training areas within or adjacent to the Region are small, the Townsville Star and the Shoalwater Bay Defence Training Area near Rockhampton are some of Australia’s largest. The Region is predicted to increase in importance as a defence training area over the next 25 years.15 Some recent trends in defence activities include enhancing its capabilities in amphibious landings and other ship-toshore or coastal manoeuvres. In addition, a recent shift in global military focus by the United States of America to enhance its capabilities in the Asia–Pacific region will likely affect defence use of the Region.16 Management All defence operational training activities are managed directly by the Australian Department of Defence. It is responsible for the conduct of training activities by defence forces, including those visiting from overseas. Management of the environmental impacts of defence training within the Great Barrier Reef is undertaken by the Department of Defence in collaboration with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Australian Department of the Environment and Queensland Government agencies. Defence activities are allowed under the zoning plan, with prior notification of intended activities. The Department of Defence has an environmental management plan that includes objectives to implement best practice environmental management. A strategic environmental assessment for defence activities15 is implemented through a management agreement between the Department of Defence and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority17. The Department of Defence has a moratorium on the use of high explosives in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area except in the Shoalwater Bay Training Area. Many defence activities are conducted with dedicated observers, who are able to collect data on marine wildlife sightings, as well as ensure activities are delayed if required.
Most defence activities occur within a limited area of the Region.
Figure 5.9 Defence training sites
The Australian Defence Force has operated and trained in the Region for over 100 years. Training is undertaken within designated areas.
5.3.2 Benefits of defence activities
Defence activities in the Region continue to directly contribute to the training and operation of Australia’s defence services. Operational activities can also help, directly and indirectly, to achieve management objectives for the Region including hydrographic surveys, and fisheries and border protection patrols. In addition, the acquisition of land and sea areas around Shoalwater Bay in 1965 has provided ecological benefits. That area continues to support high biodiversity, including internationally significant migratory species and wetlands, and has stunning landscape features.18