Senate Estimates Opening Statement: 4 April 2019

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority appeared at Senate Estimates on Thursday 4 April 2019 and Chief Executive Officer Mr Josh Thomas delivered the following opening statement:

"My name is Josh Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

"I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Great Barrier Reef and their continuing connections to their land and sea country — and pay my respects to the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal people.

"I am pleased to report conditions for the 2018-19 summer on the Great Barrier Reef have not resulted in mass coral bleaching. While early Autumn sea surface temperatures on most of the Reef are still up to 1°C above average, these conditions are unlikely to cause mass coral bleaching at this time of the year. While the Reef has escaped a severe coral bleaching event this past summer, this was due to weather events cooling sea surface temperatures, most notably four different cyclones and the February monsoon event.

"Following the recent flood event in north Queensland, initial assessments indicate there are no significant impacts to the inshore reefs of the central Great Barrier Reef. There have been reports of patchy, localised freshwater coral bleaching and some mortality, in various locations.

"We will continue to monitor the health of the Reef and assess the impact from cyclones and flooding in the catchment.

"The Authority continues to assert that limiting climate change is critical to the long-term health of the Great Barrier Reef. The conditions in which corals have thrived for millions of years are changing at a pace faster than corals can adapt. The Authority will adjust as necessary its management approaches to support Reef resilience, and continue to work with partner organisations to support the health of the Great Barrier Reef into the future.

"The Authority continues to focus its efforts into those actions which support a more resilient Reef, through implementation of the Blueprint, including culling crown-of-thorns starfish, ensuring a strong compliance regime for the Marine Park’s zoning, and engaging with Traditional Owner groups, schools and the wider community to maximise all efforts supporting Reef health.

"Recently, the Authority launched the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Strategy for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This Strategy received input from representatives of Tradtional Owner groups at dedicated workshops, and includes actions the Authority will take to protect and promote the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef. The Authority values its partnership with Traditional Owners and this is an exciting step forward to enhancing our work in this area.

"Thank you."