Consultation on key Reef policies

Reducing multiple pressures and improving the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef are the focus of two draft Reef 2050 policies released for public consultation.

The draft policies are essentially ‘how to’ guides, setting out how communities and industries whose activities might impact the Reef can identify and reduce threats and improve Reef resilience.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority acting chairman Simon Banks welcomed feedback from Reef stakeholders on these two draft policies.

“Cumulative impact management is similar to best practice environmental impact assessment, but with a broader focus on understanding the underlying pressures on the Reef,” he said.

“The net benefit policy is intended to foster actions that will deliver an overall improvement in ecosystem health and resilience.

“These policies build on the efforts already underway and are a part of actions to restore the condition of Great Barrier Reef values.”

The policies are part of the Australian and Queensland governments’ Reef 2050 Plan.

The Plan committed to providing better guidance on managing cumulative impacts affecting the Reef and developing a net benefit policy to ensure activities benefit Reef health.

Both policies have been jointly developed in collaboration with Traditional Owners and stakeholders.

The policies are part of a suite of actions to protect the Reef including protecting coral cover through dedicated crown-of-thorns starfish control and working with landholders to improve water quality.

“Much positive work has been done to protect the Reef and build its resilience,” Dr Banks said.

“The draft policies will help guide how we can reduce all threats at all levels — global, Reef-wide, regional and local — together with actions to restore the Reef’s health.

“Australia is a partner in international action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, however this needs to be supported by improving the Reef’s resilience to climate change by reducing local pressures.”

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s 2014 Outlook Report identified the key pressures on the Reef: climate change, coastal land use change, poor water quality from land-based run-off, and some fishing impacts.

These pressures occur simultaneously and overlap and interact with each other compounding to weaken the resilience of the Reef. Two consecutive years of mass coral bleaching is unprecedented.

Category four cyclone Debbie — the tenth severe category cyclone to impact the Reef since 2005 — and the subsequent floods, further demonstrate that protecting the Reef from cumulative pressures has never been more important.

The draft policies are available online and consultation closes 25 August 2017.