Reef and rangers backed
This week’s federal Budget locks in $535.8 million to help the Reef, and extra funding for Indigenous rangers.
Over $500 million will be spent improving water quality and controlling pests on the Great Barrier Reef and its coastal catchment in a five-year reef scheme.
It is the most significant environmental spending in the Budget, and the government says that if it can be combined with philanthropic and other funding sources, “will improve water quality, control crown-of-thorns starfish and boost science for reef restoration”, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said in a statement.
There is also $13 million a year for Antarctic research and $5.3 million in annual grants for heritage sites and groups.
Marine expert Associate Professor Albert Gabric from Griffith University says the funding may not be enough.
“The Great Barrier Reef is under threat from multiple local stressors including, declining water quality, coastal zone development, and periodic invasions by the crown of thorn starfish,” he said.
“Compounding these local threats are a host of climate change related global problems, including bleaching and acidification and extreme weather events ... marine heat waves and cyclones.
“The language in recent reports mentions maintaining and improving the reef’s resilience, even though the general concept of ecosystem resilience is difficult to define and even more difficult to measure.
“The proposed budget allocation of $500 million, while certainly welcome, is a very small step in confronting a classic ‘wicked problem’, which is by definition extremely difficult or impossible to solve.”
The Budget announcement also included funding for Indigenous rangers, just weeks before the program’s previous funding was due to expire.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said an extra $250 million would support 118 ranger groups until June 2021.
Shaun Ansell, chief executive of Warddeken Land Management, which employs 130 casual rangers at the Warddeken IPA in the Northern Territory, welcomed the support.
“While that’s the shortest extension in the history of the project it is encouraging,” Mr Ansell told reporters.
“However we’ve been hearing these promises for a while and we’d like to see the contracts because we can’t pay people in promises.”