Managing and protecting the Great Barrier Reef

We all have a common goal—protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef for current and future generations. The Australian and Queensland governments are jointly investing approximately $180 million annually in the reef’s health.

What Australia is doing to manage the Great Barrier Reef

Australia is working to make sure the Great Barrier Reef remains one of the best managed World Heritage sites in the world.

Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan

The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan is the overarching framework for protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef from 2015 to 2050. The plan is a key component of the Australian Government’s response to the recommendations of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The committee regularly reviews the state of conservation of all properties inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Reef Trust

The Reef Trust will combine both Australian Government and private funds to focus on improving coastal habitat and water quality throughout the Great Barrier Reef and adjacent catchments.

The Australian Government is committing an initial contribution of $40 million to the Reef Trust to address key threats to the reef.

Run-off reduction and control of crown-of-thorns starfish

Through the Reef Trust, funding will be provided to farmers and land managers to assist them to implement techniques to reduce run off to the Great Barrier Reef catchment that contribute to crown-of- thorns starfish outbreaks.

Additional actions are also planned to control crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and reduce the incidence of new outbreaks through partnerships between managing agencies and marine tourism operators. These will build on existing direct control activities being undertaken as part of the Australian Government Reef Programme.

Dugong and Turtle Protection Plan

A National Dugong and Turtle Protection Plan is also being established under the Reef Trust. This plan will provide greater protection from the threats of poaching, illegal hunting and marine debris to dugong and turtle populations in the reef region.

Australian Government Reef Programme

The Australian Government’s Reef Programme builds on the success of Reef Rescue (2008–2013) where more than 3200 land managers received water quality grants for on-farm projects to adopt better land management practices and improve quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

Over the next five years (2013–2018), the programme has already contracted the delivery of approximately $142 million to suppor the health of the reef.

Australian Government Reef Achievements (2008 - 2013) report

The Australian Government Reef Achievements report provides information on the success of the Australian Government’s investments through the Reef Rescue Programme to reduce nutrients, pesticides and sediment discharge into the reef from broadscale landuse over the period 2008 to 2013.

North-East Shipping Management Plan

The North-East Shipping Management Plan sets out Australia’s intention to enhance ship safety and environmental protection and identifies measures to manage risks associated with shipping in the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea and Torres Strait regions.

Comprehensive strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area

The Australian Government, including the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and the Queensland Government have completed a comprehensive strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and adjacent coastal zone.

Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report

The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2014 provides an important stocktake on the state of the Reef and its outlook, based on the best available information at the time.

Reef Water Quality Protection Plan

The Great Barrier Reef is under pressure from many factors—one of which is the poor quality of water running into it from adjacent catchments. The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan (Reef Plan) is a framework for the Australian and Queensland governments to work together—along with industry, regional natural resource bodies and others—to improve the quality of water flowing into the Reef.

The Reef Plan was established in 2003, and updated in 2009 and 2013.

Great Barrier Reef Report Card 2012 and 2013 - Reef Water Quality Protection Plan

The Great Barrier Reef Report Card 2012 and 2013 measures progress from the 2009 baseline towards Reef Quality Protection Plan 2009 targets. The report card assesses the combined results of all Reef Plan action up to June 2013.

Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone

As part of the Australian Government's response to the 2012 decision of the World Heritage Committee regarding the ongoing protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage property, the Australian Government commissioned an Independent Review of the Port of Gladstone.

An addendum to the independent review was commissioned in January 2014 so that an independent panel could examine the latest information.

Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement

In 2009, the Australian and Queensland governments developed a Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area to secure the long-term conservation and protection of the reef.  The aim was to enhance coordinated and collaborative approaches between the Australian and Queensland jurisdictions.

Protective legislation

The reef is protected by two complementary pieces of federal legislation:

  • the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 oversees activities in the marine park
  • Australia's key national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, protects nationally significant matters including the Great Barrier Reef World and National Heritage areas.

These acts provide an internationally recognised world class system of environment and heritage protection. To ensure use of the Great Barrier Reef remains sustainable, activities in the World Heritage Area and marine park are tightly controlled under these laws, as well as other relevant state and federal laws.

In 2006, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 was reviewed and a series of measures proposed to strengthen the legal, governance and policy frameworks relating to the management and long-term protection of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Act 2007

A body of new measures was implemented to protect the reef during 2007 - principally via the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Amendment Act 2007. The Act commenced on 1 July 2007 and amended the governance, accountability and transparency requirements of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975.

In particular, the amendments provided for:

  • a five-yearly, peer-reviewed 'Outlook Report' to document the overall condition of the marine park to be tabled in Parliament and published
  • an enhanced process to engage stakeholders in the development of zoning plans for the marine park
  • zoning plans to be 'locked down' for a minimum of seven years from the date they come into force to provide stability for business, communities and biological systems.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2008

A second amendment Act - the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2008 - was passed by Parliament on 12 November 2008. The Act put in place a modern, future-focused regulatory framework to secure the long-term protection and ecologically sustainable management of the reef.

A multi-use property

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a multiple-use area in which a wide range of activities and uses are allowed, including extractive industries but not mining. A new Zoning Plan for the entire Marine Park came into effect on 1 July 2004 and protects over 33 per cent of the Park though no-take zones (known also as green zones).

The comprehensive, multiple-use zoning system minimises impacts and conflicts by providing high levels of protection for specific areas. A variety of other activities are allowed to continue in a managed way in certain zones (such as shipping, dredging, aquaculture, tourism, boating, diving, research, commercial fishing and recreational fishing).

Further information