SYDNEY: Australia insisted today that protecting the Great Barrier Reef was a top priority, but conservation group WWF said not enough had been done to prevent UNESCO from deeming it a world heritage site ‘in danger’.
In June UNESCO demanded decisive action from Australia to protect the world’s largest coral reef from a gas and mining boom and increasing coastal development, or risk the embarrassment of seeing it put on the danger list.
The deadline it gave Canberra to outline how it planned to improve management and protection and meet key targets recommended by the World Heritage Committee ran out today.
In releasing its response to UNESCO, Environment Minister Tony Burke said the government was ‘absolutely committed’ to protecting the reef.
Burke said Canberra had already invested Aus$200 million (US$208 million) in a ‘Reef Rescue’ programme and would provide an additional Aus$800,000 to fight the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish which is decimating the reef.