Investments in the Reef
Investment Framework and Reef Trust funding schemes
The Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan (Reef 2050 Plan) is underpinned by a robust investment framework, harnessing and coordinating public and private investment to maximise outcomes for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).
The first phase of the investment framework was aimed at establishing a baseline to:
- Provide a snapshot of current contributions and work presently being undertaken by both government and non-government sectors; and
- Identify the span of activities where funds are being used to deliver outcomes for the GBR.
The investment baseline provided information on major investments across program areas. The breadth of commitment and contributions to the GBR is substantial and delivered through a range of partners, including traditional owners, industry, farmers, philanthropic organisations, government and members of the local community.
As provided in the Reef 2050 Investment Framework 2016, over $485 million was invested in the GBR in 2014-15, with $270.2 million from other non-government sources, including the resources sector.
For years the resources sector has provided voluntary financial and in-kind investments to GBR projects and more recently actions required to meet the targets of the Reef 2050 Plan. These contributions are additional to the considerable compliance investments already delivered to initiatives such as extensive monitoring, field management and research.
Most recently, the resources sector has contributed funding and staff support to (including but not limited to):
- The operation of regional partnerships, such as the Fitzroy Partnership for River Health and Gladstone Healthy Harbour Partnership, aimed at managing, monitoring and reporting on key reef health indicators;
- The restoration and management of critical ecosystems and habitats, such as the Raine Island turtle recovery project;
- The operation of local community stewardship groups, such as the Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger Program, and associated programs; and
- The ongoing monitoring of water quality across the GBR, such as the Future Reef MAP ocean chemistry project.
The Commonwealth Government is now focussing its attention to the investment prioritisation process for the Reef 2050 Plan that will include reviewing the allocation of resources to ensure maximum benefit and efficiency. Work has commenced on the diversification of investment sources to facilitate greater partnerships and private investment, alongside public investment, with initial mechanisms for identifying diversification and innovation in funding approaches being investigated.
QRC supports recommendations made by the GBR Water Science Taskforce whereby the fragmentation of funding for the reef needs to be reduced and this would be best achieved by the Queensland and Commonwealth governments:
- Pooling funding in a Reef Trust, more independent of government;
- An investment plan to provide certainty of funding and to clearly address priority issues;
- Bilaterally agree and invest in the continuous improvement of catchment scale delivery mechanisms; and
- Continue co-funding monitoring programs to properly evaluate outcomes of investment.
The Reef Trust is identified as one of the key mechanisms assisting in the delivery of the Reef 2050 Plan, and is focussed on known critical areas for investment, including improving water quality and coastal habitats along the GBR, controlling outbreaks of Crown of Thorns Starfish, and protecting threatened and migratory species. An investment strategy for the initial phases of the Reef Trust has been developed to guide early investments, see relevant links below.
The Reef Trust is being delivered by the Commonwealth Government, in collaboration with the Queensland Government, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Reef Trust governance and administrative arrangements are in place to ensure all funds are effectively managed and directed towards priority on-ground actions. These arrangements leverage and complement the broader governance structure and processes for the Reef 2050 Plan and sit alongside arrangements for the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan 2013.
The Commonwealth Government has committed $140 million to the Reef Trust to provide innovative, targeted investment focused on improving water quality, restoring coastal ecosystem health and enhancing species protection in the GBR region.
The Commonwealth Government is also working to establish clear mechanisms and guidance for how the Reef Trust is going to deal with offsets provided by proponents for the GBR, as part of their conditions of approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Work is currently underway to develop material which will establish how the Reef Trust would operate in regards to assigning projects to offset payments, and also a calculator for originally establishing the payment amounts. There is a need for the offsets work to be co-ordinated across jurisdictions and clear arrangements established for how Queensland government marine offsets may be included in the Reef Trust, as well as ensuring that the calculator does not by default cause proponent offset payments to become the main funding source for the Reef Trust.
QRC continues to support the Reef Trust, noting further guidance is required to ensure the resources sector can invest with confidence. Failure to provide such guidance will result in a lack of certainty of process for industry proponents, meaning the uptake of the Reef Trust by the resources sector may be limited.