Great Barrier Reef in good hands — Reef protection program claims gold award

A joint Queensland and Commonwealth government program dedicated to protecting the Great Barrier Reef has received the Australian Public Sector Management’s top gong at an awards ceremony Wednesday night.

The Reef Joint Field Management Program won the Gold Award for the 2019 Prime Minister's Awards for Excellence in Public Sector Management, coordinated by the Institute of Public Administration Australia.

The unique program is a cross-jurisdictional collaboration by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service that has protected the Great Barrier Reef’s 348,000 square kilometres of World Heritage Area for 40 years.

The award was given in recognition of ‘A Transformed Great Barrier Reef Joint Field Management Program – Meeting 21st Century Challenges’ and applauds the way the joint program has collaborated and modernised its approaches to tackle unprecedented threats to the global icon, delivered unwavering on-ground outcomes, and fostered strong relationships with Traditional Owners and the community.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority CEO Josh Thomas said the award was a fantastic recognition of the program’s vital role in protecting more than 2900 reefs and 1050 islands — home to iconic plants, animals, habitats and rich cultural heritage.

“We are the eyes and ears on the Reef, at sea, in the air and on the islands — an area that is bigger than Italy and includes the most distant reaches of the World Heritage Area,” Mr Thomas said.

“We combat threats to build island, reef and species resilience so that Australians and international visitors can enjoy the Great Barrier Reef now and into the future.”

Activities include saving vulnerable turtles and seabirds, restoring tourism infrastructure post-cyclones, monitoring crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, ensuring zoning rules are followed and training Indigenous rangers to help protect sea country.

QPWS deputy director-general Ben Klaassen said the award was a proud achievement for 145 staff, but also the community and partners.

“This is a significant accolade and can’t be understated,” Mr Klaassen said.

“It recognises the hard work; innovation; progressive management practices; relationships with Traditional Owners, industry representatives and users of the marine parks, and the capacity to adapt and be responsive to the changing and challenging threats that confront the Reef.”

The award-winning program received a significant funding boost in 2017–18 to double its capacity in recognition of the crucial role it plays.

This is the second time the program has been successful at the Prime Minister’s Awards. In 2015 the Reef Joint Field Management Program received a Silver and a Collaboration award.

For more information about the program and the actions it is taking to protect the Reef, see the newly-released Field Management Program Annual Report Summary 2018-19.


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