The Reef Trust

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About the Reef Trust

Great Barrier Reef

The Australian 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.

The Reef Trust is one of the key mechanisms assisting in the delivery of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, and will focus on known critical areas for investment – improving water quality and coastal habitat along the Great Barrier Reef, controlling the current outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish, and protecting threatened and migratory species, particularly dugong and turtles. There will be a strong focus on evaluating and adaptively managing the implementation of the Reef Trust to ensure it continues to contribute to the long-term sustainable management of the reef.

The Reef Trust is being delivered by the Australian Government, in collaboration with the Queensland Government, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The Government has announced the appointment of the Commonwealth Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, to chair an Independent Expert Panel to advise on future investments for the Reef Trust.

Frequently asked questions

Investment approach

The Reef Trust is being developed and implemented in a phased approach. An investment strategy for the initial phase was developed to guide early investments. The investment strategy outlines the design of the Reef Trust, including its objective, outcomes and governance arrangements. A phased approach enables investments to be targeted towards known key threats.

Reef Trust investments are based on the best available science and compliment the extensive efforts across government, natural resource management organisation and industry to delivery cost effective and strategic on-ground change.

Reef Trust Investments

Phase I Reef Trust investments

Four projects with funding totalling $15 million are currently being delivered through the first phase of Reef Trust investment.

These projects focus on improving water quality and species protection through: erosion control in priority grazing regions; improving fertiliser efficiency on sugar cane farms in the Wet Tropics and improving grazing land management practices; increasing protection of dugongs and marine turtles; and controlling crown of thorns starfish on high value tourism reefs.

Phase II Reef Trust investments

New projects worth more than $15 million will strengthen protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef under Phase II of the Reef Trust.

The projects include remediating gullies in grazing landscapes to control erosion, a competitive tender to reduce fertiliser run-off from sugar cane farms in the Burdekin region and more funding to help control the outbreak of coral eating crown of thorns starfish on high value tourism reefs.

Process to identify Phase II investments

In determining Phase II Reef Trust investments, a process for prioritising potential management interventions was undertaken. This ensured that the investments build on and complement previous and existing investments, and mitigate the pressures that currently pose the greatest risk to the health of the Reef. The likelihood that targeted investments would provide a cost-effective environmental benefit was also considered, together with the potential for activities to provide a basis for improved knowledge about the effectiveness of management actions.

Investment process

Steps in the process

  1. Review of best available information - priority reef values and threats & targeting regions and industries most requiring action
  2. Analysis of existing efforts
  3. Identification of potential investments and appropriate delivery mechanisms
  4. Assessment of Cost-Effectiveness of potential interventions
  5. Final set of interventions for Phase II Investments

Reef Trust Offsets

In addition to utilising Australian Government funding and in line with the requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the Reef Trust is able to accept, where conditioned, financial contributions from environmental approval holders who are undertaking works which have a significant residual impact to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the values within it.

Offset contributions to the Reef Trust will only be considered following all reasonable efforts to avoid and mitigate impacts and any offset funded projects delivered through the Reef Trust will be expected to deliver an environmental outcome and improve or maintain the same attributes or values that are being impacted.

Given the importance of the Great Barrier Reef, the Reef Trust is taking a phased approached to incorporating environmental offsets into the programme.

One of the key steps in the development of the Reef Trust’s approach to environmental offset funding was the engagement of The Biodiversity Consultancy to explore a number of technical issues related to the delivery of offsets through the Reef Trust.

The Biodiversity Consultancy examined options to ensure ecological, character, temporal, spatial and amount equivalence, mitigation of risk and uncertainty, approaches for determining financial contribution amounts, as well as auditing and monitoring approaches.

Building on the findings of this paper, an approach and methodology to assist with the calculation of potential offset payments is being developed in partnership with several technical experts.

Reef Trust discussion paper

Consultation approaches will vary throughout the life of the Reef Trust to capitalise on specialist knowledge and advice that can be drawn from the community, science experts, environmental organisations, relevant industries and natural resource management organisations.

On 23 April 2014, the Australian Government invited submissions on the Reef Trust discussion paper which focused on the design and implementation features of the trust. Comments were sought to ensure the Reef Trust adopts an effective, strategic and transparent approach and that Government investment in the management of the Reef continues to be delivered in partnership with the community and industry. Submissions have been considered and will further inform the Reef Trust investment approach and delivery arrangements, and shape future functioning of the Reef Trust. The consultation period was from 23 April 2014 to 21 May 2014.


The Department would like to thank all those who provided submissions.

A summary of thematic issues raised by submissions is provided below.​

Discussion paper

General enquiries