AT THE HELM: Imogen Zethoven is Australian Marine Conservation Society’s new Great Barrier Reef campaign director.
AT THE HELM: Imogen Zethoven is Australian Marine Conservation Society’s new Great Barrier Reef campaign director. Emily Smith

Friend of the late Felicity Wishart to take over her role

IT'S the Mona Lisa of the natural world and we need to fight to protect it.

The statement illustrates Imogen Zethoven's commitment to protecting the Great Barrier Reef and carrying on the work of Felicity Wishart, her best friend and environmental campaigner, who died suddenly on July 19.

That's why it's fitting she is the new Great Barrier Reef campaign director for the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

"It's a huge honour and a huge responsibility (to continue Ms Wishart's work)," Ms Zethoven said.

"The reef, it's the Mona Lisa of the natural world. I first went diving on the Great Barrier Reef in the '80s... I totally fell in love with it."

Ms Zethoven first met Ms Wishart in 1991, and the pair became best friends.

It was Ms Wishart's creativity, intelligence and knack for bringing out the best in everyone that made her a great leader.

While Ms Zethoven was in the USA when she found out about her friends' passing, she returned to Australia the next day.

"I was over here three and a half weeks with the memorial services, and by the time that was over I made up my mind I would express interest (in the role)," Ms Zethoven said.

"We need the industrialisation of the reef to stop. We shouldn't see Abbot Point go ahead."

Although environmental groups have been branded "eco-terrorists" by the media and politicians recently, the name-calling didn't worry her.

She believed the political environment was even starting to look up.

"The last two years under Abbott were lost years," Ms Zethoven said.

"But things are absolutely looking up. I think Malcolm Turnbull understands the serious threats the reef faces.

"We have to make a rapid transition to renewables. (But we also have to) acknowledge that we have to look after people affected by this change."

She called on leadership from government for policy to reflect this change.

"(I have heard reports) the global demand for coal is in severe decline," she said.

"Just look at the stock market crash in recent days that was mostly due to mining companies."

She said she expected the Carmichael coal mine to be approved soon, but said when the statement of reasons were released, the groups' lawyers would scrutinise them.