|Following the approvals of several major developments in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA), in March 2012, a joint reactive monitoring mission to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) was conducted by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), to assess the state of conservation in the GBR. |
Informing UNESCO’s considerations, the Australian Government submitted their 2012 State Party Report, which unfortunately greatly exaggerated the anticipated port and shipping expansion in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (i.e. 953 million tonnes of proposed capacity within the next decade).
|REEF 2050 LONG TERM SUSTAINABILITY PLAN GOVERNANCE|
|The coordinating document for the Queensland and Commonwealth Government’s management of the GBR is the Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement which was signed in 2009. It is this group that oversaw the development of the Reef 2050 LTSP. As part of the Intergovernmental Agreement, the Queensland and Federal Ministers meet regularly as the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum.|
The relevant Commonwealth Ministers are Greg Hunt, Minister for the Environment, who is the chair of the Forum and Andrew Robb, Minister for Trade and Investment. The Queensland Government representatives are the Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and the Minister for the Great Barrier Reef, Steven Miles.
The annual meeting of the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum was held on 10 June 2015, where the relevant Ministers released the Reef 2050 Plan Implementation Strategy , which details how government will go about implementing the first tranche of commitments under the Reef 2050 LTSP.
The most recent Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum meeting was held on 15 December 2015. Following this meeting, the Ministers released a second edition to the Implementation Strategy, which is available here.
The governance arrangements underpinning the Reef 2050 Plan Implementation Strategy include the following groups:
• GBR Ministerial Forum
• Standing Committee of Officials
• Reef 2050 Advisory Committee (of which QRC is a member)
• Independent Expert Panel
• Integrated Monitoring & Reporting Programme Steering Group
|KEY ASPECTS OF INDUSTRY WORK IN THE Reef2050 LTSP|
|QRC sees the two main areas of strategic priority in relation to the GBR and Reef2050 as: |
i. Reef2050 implementation focussing on the 139 actions identified within the Reef2050 Plan and as a subset of this,
ii. Emerging GBR policy.
QRC is of the view that if industry is not involved in the earliest stages of action prioritisation and implementation, including GBR policy development, this could have important implications for the resources sector. QRC, through its membership on the Reef Advisory Committee (RAC), will continue to promote industry’s views and guidance on Reef2050 action prioritisation and implementation. QRC will also continue the open and constructive dialogue it has commenced with Government on emerging policy matters throughout 2016.
|REEF 2050 INVESTMENT STRATEGY|
|The Reef 2050 Plan will be underpinned by a robust investment framework, harnessing and coordinating public and private investment to maximise outcomes for the Reef. The first phase of the investment framework is an investment baseline. See here . The investment baseline provides a snapshot of current investment and work presently being undertaken by both government and non-government sectors, as well as identifying the span of activities where funds are being used to deliver outcomes for the Reef.|
This investment baseline provides an overview of the level of investment committed to Reef activities based on an assessment of funding in 2014-15. The baseline provides information on major investments across program areas. The breadth of commitment and investment in the Great Barrier Reef is substantial and delivered through a range of partners, including traditional owners, industry, farmers, philanthropic organisations, government agencies and members of the local community.
In 2014-15, over $485 million was invested in the GBR, with $41.3M coming from ‘other non-government sources’ including the resources sector. See here for examples of GBR resource sector contributions.
|The Reef Trust is identified as one of the key mechanisms assisting in the delivery of the Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan, and is focussed on known critical areas for investment – including improving water quality and coastal habitats along the GBR, controlling outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, and protecting threatened and migratory species. An investment strategy for the initial phases of the Reef Trust has been developed to guide early investments. (See here). |
The Commonwealth Government is now working to establish clear mechanisms and guidance for how the Reef Trust is going to deal with offsets provided by proponents for the GBR, as part of their conditions of approval under the EPBC Act. Work is currently underway on material which, amongst other things, will establish how the Trust would operate in regards to assigning projects to offset payments, and also a calculator for originally establishing the payment amounts. There is a need for the offsets work to be coordinated across jurisdictions and clear arrangements established for how Queensland Government marine offsets may be included in the Reef Trust, as well as ensuring that the calculator does not by default cause proponent offset payments to become the main funding source for the Reef Trust.
QRC continues to support the Reef Trust, noting further guidance is required to ensure industry can invest with confidence. Failure to provide such guidance will result in a lack of certainty of process for industry proponents, meaning the uptake of the Reef Trust by industry proponents may be limited.
|WATER QUALITY PARTNERSHIPS AND REPORTING|
|The resources sector is actively involved in Queensland and Great Barrier Reef water quality partnerships.|
The Fitzroy Partnership for River Health released its 2013-2014 Report Card at the end of June 2015. (See here). The Fitzroy catchment obtained a B rating (up from a C in previous years) – although this was due in part to the non-inclusion of marine results due to these being held back by government. These results have now been released (found here) and show that the Fitzroy marine environment remains the equivalent of a D.
The Mackay-Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership released its first report card on 22 October 2015. (See here) In developing the first report card, it has become clear that far more data collection work and identification of key indicators needs to be undertaken.
The Report Card includes economic indicators, which have been split into two indicators, namely:
1. Direct market contributions of the major industries
2. Value of the waterways
The Gladstone Healthy Harbours Partnership (GHHP) has completed its report on Industry Stewardship of the harbour. (See here) The results show that industry already undertakes a suite of comprehensive stewardship measures and this will be clearly relayed to the community in the first full GHHP report card set to be released in December 2015
In addition, the Mackay-Whitsunday Report Card is already putting in place a largely replica Stewardship Reporting component for their Report Card.
It should be noted that as part of the monitoring component of Reef 2050 and further use of investment funds, the Queensland Government will be looking to align all Report Card products.
|INTEGRATED MONITORING AND REPORTING PROGRAM|
|The Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Program, co-ordinated by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), locks in the commitment to delivery of the Reef 2050 Plan and underpins the vital and ongoing work to protect the Reef. It will measure and report on the performance of actions towards achieving the plan's targets, objectives and outcomes - with areas such as the Fitzroy, the Whitsundays and the Burdekin to receive additional monitoring. The Australian Government will invest $8 million to roll out the monitoring and reporting program of the Reef 2050 Plan. |
The Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Programme Steering Committee is co-chaired by the Chairman of the GBRMPA and the Director-General of the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection who are working in consultation with a range of eminent Reef and marine scientists. The Reef Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Programme will be developed collaboratively by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Australian and Queensland governments, science, industry and community partners. The Reef 2050 Plan is supported by the Australian Government's $140 million Reef Trust and the Queensland Government's $100 million injection over five years.
This major four-year investment will enable GBRMPA to capture the information critical to understanding the health trends of the Reef and the pressures and activities affecting the ecosystem.
It will also enable the assessment of effectiveness of on-ground actions and investments to protect and restore the Reef's values, address threats and ensure development and use of the Reef remains ecologically sustainable.
The Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Programme monitors biophysical, heritage, water quality, social and economic changes that affect the Reef and uses this information to adaptively manage the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
This programme will ultimately help to inform Australians and people around the world about the condition of the Reef. It will provide evidence of Australia’s actions to ensure the Great Barrier Reef retains the World Heritage status it deserves.
|SUSTAINABLE PORTS DEVELOPMENT ACT|
|The Queensland Government introduced the Sustainable Ports Development Bill on 3 June 2015. The Bill was designed to implement several of the key port-related actions of Reef 2050 including:|
• restrict new port development in and adjoining the GBRWHA to within current port limits and outside Commonwealth and state marine parks
• prohibit capital dredging for the development of new or expansion of existing port facilities in the GBRWHA outside the priority ports of Gladstone, Abbot Point, Townsville and Hay Point/Mackay
• prohibit the sea-based disposal of port-related capital dredge spoil material within the GBRWHA
• mandate that capital dredged material generated at the priority ports be beneficially reused or disposed of on land where it is environmentally safe to do so.
Also, consistent with the Reef2050 Plan, the Bill mandates master plans at priority ports to optimise use of existing infrastructure and address operational, economic, environmental and community relationships, as well as supply chains and surrounding land uses.
The Sustainable Ports Development Bill was amended and passed on 12 November 2015. (See here) .
The key amendments to the Bill recognised that although Cairns Port cannot be declared a priority port post the 2015 WHC decision, an exemption has been provided to allow for a small amount of capital dredging.
In regards to maintenance dredging, this will be managed under an alternative mechanism. The Act has never been seen as the appropriate way in which to regulate maintenance dredging given such dredging is carried out to ensure the safe and effective ongoing operation of a port, which falls under the scope of other legislation. Currently DTMR is developing a state wide maintenance dredging strategy as per another of the Reef2050 Actions.
|Independent scientific studies into the health of the GBR include a recently released Strategic Assessment and 2014 Outlook Report; a Reef Report Card; a 2013 Reef Scientific Consensus Statement (50 marine scientists) and a 2012 (30-year) health assessment by the Australian Institute of Marine Science. (See here) They concur on the scope of major threats to the reef’s long-term health being poor water quality from land-based activities, storms and cyclones, Crown of Thorns starfish, coral bleaching and climate change. |
Land-based water run-off has been calculated by the CSIRO to channel 17 million tonnes of sediment into the GBR lagoon annually via 30 river catchments. Of this total, 14 million tonnes are estimated to be a product of human interventions in the catchments (e.g. grazing and cropping).
Whilst QRC has been consistent in its acknowledgment of the fact that the resources industry does have an impact on the Great Barrier Reef, our industry must be placed in the context of the key threats. Any policy or program that fails to seek contributions from the major contributors to the impacts on the GBR, will ultimately fail to halt the decline in the reef. QRC is supportive of a proportionate, combined effort by industry (resources, ports, agriculture, and tourism) as well as government, communities, and other private enterprise, working together to protect and conserve this great national asset.