Labor pledges $3m to protect Lady Elliot
THE Labor government has pledged to partner with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation as part of a $14 million, five-year program to boost the climate resilience of the Great Barrier Reef islands.
Lady Elliot Island on the southern Great Barrier Reef will be the first to be restored through the Reef Island Refuge Initiative in 2018, with an on-ground program to boost the island's resilience to climate change and other stresses.
Speaking from the island, Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles said the government would contribute $3 million to the program to protect the reef's most precious land and sea scapes from climate change.
"Tackling climate change is vital for protecting our iconic places, including the Great Barrier Reef," Mr Miles said.
"But global climate change and mass coral bleaching are impacting the islands.
"The advice of scientific experts is clear: action needs to be taken urgently to address climate change, and we need to accelerate our efforts to reduce other pressures.
"The Palaszczuk Government has invested more than ever before to improve reef water quality, with an additional $245 million being invested over the next five years.
"We have also banned the dumping of capital dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef, and we have limited port expansions on the reef coastline to the four major ports.
"This is in stark contrast to the LNP's record in government, where they wasted money on glossy PR campaigns instead of investing in protecting this international icon."
Labor candidate for Burnett Lee Harvey said: "The previous Newman-Nicholls LNP government chose not to enforce the legislated minimum standards that were in place to help protect the reef from damaging pollution.
"They also slashed the jobs of 39 reef protection officers-a whole unit of hard-working Queenslanders-dedicated to reducing pollution affecting the reef.
"It was the Newman-Nicholls LNP government that inherited sound, effective tree-clearing laws and trashed them-and it was the LNP that voted against the government's new laws in the last parliament.
"Only Labor has a clear plan to drive down excessive clearing rates, sequester carbon, restore habitat and improve water quality to protect this international icon into the future."
Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden said: "Islands are a critical part of the whole Great Barrier Reef ecosystem and play a key role in the lifecycle of so many species of fauna and flora.
"Both global climate change and local threats are impacting Great Barrier Reef islands and these impacts are only projected to increase into the future, which is why we have to act now to ensure the most critical climate refuges are maintained.
"By working to restore and protect these island refuges, we're essentially creating a series of 'arks' to help our precious Reef wildlife and plants to survive in an increasingly challenging environment.
"Lady Elliot Island is one of five Great Barrier Reef islands/island groups we've prioritised for urgent action based on an assessment of biodiversity, conservation value, and threat level to these values carried out by Queensland Parks and Wildlife and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
"With the first stage of funding secured for the program, we will be bringing together an expert project team to work with Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort Managing Director Peter Gash and his team. They will develop a tailored program to boost the island's resilience and provide a sustainable habitat for its amazing seabirds, turtles, manta rays, dolphins, sharks and coral reefs."
Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort Managing Director Peter Gash said the project will build on and accelerate the award-winning work already underway to improve the island's sustainability and contribute to a healthy Great Barrier Reef.
"Preserving the natural environment of the Great Barrier Reef is something that I am extremely passionate about," Mr Gash said.
"Lady Elliot Island is a remarkable place that hosts some of the most extraordinary marine and terrestrial life and we need to do our best to look after them. It has the second highest diversity of breeding seabirds of any island on the Great Barrier Reef and is one of only two places on the Reef where endangered red tailed tropic birds breed. Endangered loggerhead and green turtles also nest here and it's renowned as a haven for giant manta rays and many other marine creatures.
"This new restoration project will be underpinned by strong science and we're excited to be working with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and all the partners to take these initiatives to the next level and introduce new ones to ensure that Lady Elliot Island remains a biodiversity bright spot for the Reef into the future."
The Reef Island Refuge Initiative was made possible through an establishing investment from the former chairman of Goldman Sachs, Australia and New Zealand, philanthropist Stephen Fitzgerald.
"I've followed and supported the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's work for many years and, while there are already significant initiatives underway to protect the Reef, it's clear that the Reef needs more help to give it the best chance of a bright future," Mr Fitzgerald said.
"Climate change is the number one threat facing the Great Barrier Reef today and the Reef Island Refuge Initiative will improve the ability of some of the most important places on the Reef to withstand and survive our changing climate.
"Importantly, the program aligns with the goals of the Reef 2050 Plan and will help protect the outstanding values of our World Heritage site which has been valued at $56 billion by the recent Deloitte Access Economics report commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
"It's a privilege to be part of this project with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and its partners, and I hope that others will also support this quest to protect the world's largest reef for generations to come."