JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday vowed to create a A$1-billion fund to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
Malcolm, who is facing a general election on July 2, said that a re-elected Coalition government would provide the funding over ten years to invest in finance for projects in the reef catchments area that delivered clean energy, reduced emissions and improved water quality.
The fund would support clean energy projects that reduced runoff of pollutants, fertiliser and sediment. It would also support the installation of more energy and water efficient irrigation systems, pesticide sprayers and fertiliser application systems. The fund would further help coastal sewage treatment plans to reduce ocean outfalls with efficient pumps, biogas electricity generation and next generation wastewater treatment.
“Improving water quality will enhance the reef’s resilience to climate change, coral bleaching and outbreaks of the destructive crown of thorns starfish. Climate change is the greatest long-term threat to the Great Barrier Reef and to all coral reefs around the world,” said Turnbull.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation through its $10-billion special account, would administer the new Reef Fund, which Turnbull said would build on $461-million in reef funding already committed since the coalition came into office.
The Great Barrier Reef featured on the ‘in-danger list’ of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Committee last year, but was removed after Australia developed the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.
At the time, the government banned capital dredge disposals in the entire World Heritage Area and vowed to increase monitoring efforts, restrict port development and ensure the quality of the water entering the reef was improving.
Previously, five dredge proposal projects were planned in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
WWF-Australia has welcomed Turnbull’s announcement, but said that the funding commitment would not be enough to address water pollution flowing to the reef.
WWF-Australia spokesperson Nick Heath said the reef required a rescue package similar in size to the A$13-billion in funding committed to saving the Murray-Darling basin.
He added that WWF-Australia would also like to see a legal cap on pollution and a commitment to 100% renewable electricity by 2035, to protect the Great Barrier Reef.