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Senator The Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

EMBARGO: 8.00PM 22 MAY 2001



The Howard Government has increased funding to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) to ensure the continued protection of the Reef and its marine park.

The Government will provide $6.4 million over four years, commencing in 2001-02, for the refurbishment and modernisation of the Townsville Aquarium (Reef HQ).

Federal Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill said Reef HQ is an important reef educational facility and a key tourist attraction for the Townsville region.

"There is a need to upgrade the Aquarium to meet visitor expectations, provide high-quality educational facilities and showcase the world heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef," Senator Hill said.

"The existing facility is now 14 years old and there is a need to carry out an extensive maintenance program to ensure continued operation and ongoing adherence to health and safety standards.

"The Australian people, and particularly the people of Townsville, feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to this facility, which is reflected in a volunteer program with in excess of 150 volunteers providing their services free of charge to promote the facility and the Great Barrier Reef.

"The Government and GBRMPA appreciate the support from the Townsville community and the ongoing commitment of the volunteers. GBRMPA will work with local interests to rejuvenate the facility to meet community expectations."

Reef HQ will be refurbished to provide a world-class experience for visitors showcasing the special values of the Reef. The upgraded facility will be particularly valuable for the elderly and people with disabilities who would not otherwise be able to experience the wonders of a living coral reef ecosystem.

"The refurbishment works will also create jobs and significantly boost the local building industry."

The Budget has also provided $1.7 million over four years to address management of aquaculture adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

"The Government appreciates that aquaculture is a growing industry along the Queensland coast and understands the future economic benefits that are likely to accrue from this industry," Senator Hill said.

"However, to ensure the aquaculture industry develops without having a detrimental impact upon water quality in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon, it will be necessary to work with industry to enhance management regimes and to minimise impacts.

"The Government wishes to ensure the biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef is not compromised in any way as the aquaculture industry and other industries develop along the adjacent coastline.

"GBRMPA will work in a cooperative manner with the aquaculture Industry to establish environment management regimes, which ensure the sustainability of the industry and the biological integrity and diversity of the Great Barrier Reef."

The Budget has also provided a further $1.7 million over four years for GBRMPA to meet its growing management responsibilities.

Belinda Huppatz (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364

Commonwealth of Australia