Coalition’s Reef policy to include long term planning.   The Australian

Graham Lloyd – Environment Editor – September 2, 2013

A new structure for long term planning to protect the Great Barrier Reef and increased funding to combat crown of thorns starfish will form the core of the Coalition’s reef policy to be announced today.

The opposition has already outlined a series of measures under its Reef 2050 plan including $5 million to protect turtle and dugongs.

But the Coalition is understood to have stopped short of banning the dumping of dredge spoils from port expansions or committing to UNESCO demands to limit industrial development along the Queensland coast.

Australians for Animals spokeswoman Sue Arnold welcomed the Coalition’s recognition of the threat posed by marine pests as a result of increased shipping, an issue she said had been overlooked by the federal government’s scientific panel looking into Gladstone Harbour, but she said too little attention had been paid to noise pollution from shipping and port developments.

” The bottom line is there has not been one mention of the impact of underwater noise by either party and while I think the Coalition is coming out with some really good things for the protection of turtles and dugongs, there are other issues that need attention,” Ms Arnold said.

” Protection of the Great Barrier Reef really is the Liberal Party heritage and the best thing they could do is call a royal commission into port development at Gladstone and learn from those mistakes.”

The Liberal Party policy launch is likely to mirror the priorities already set out by Labor, which last week outlined $137.3 m worth of spending focused on tackling farm nutrient run-off and crown of thorns eradication.  It will also include ” a long term structure for a more strategic protection plan”, a Coalition spokesman said.

Coalition environment spokesman Greg Hunt has been holding discussions with the Queensland government about strategic planning for port development and reef protection.

The Queensland Resource Council has estimated it would cost the Australian government an additional $8m a year to get on top of the latest crown of thorns starfish infestation on the reef.

” Experts from James Cook University have said if five dive boats could be dedicated to starfish eradication, there would be a serious chance of getting on top of the current infestation,” QRC chief executive Michael Roche said.

“At the moment, there is one boat with committed funding of 42m a year over the next two years.”

Last year, the Australian Institute of Marine Science found that the Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral cover over the past 27 years with crown of thorns starfish responsible for 42%, cyclones and storms 48% and coral bleaching 10%.

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