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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Long-term protection for the Great Barrier Reef

Media release
24 November 2009

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Legislative changes that come into effect today will strengthen the long-term protection of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park while cutting red tape.

“The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia's and the world's most significant environmental assets,” Environment Minister Peter Garrett said.

“It is one of the largest and best protected marine areas on the globe, but it faces many threats not least of all from dangerous climate change, and safeguarding it for the future is essential.

“The changes that come into effect today will not only ensure the sustainable long-term use of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, they will streamline the administrative process, and refine the compliance system.

“While activities in the marine park are already tightly controlled, the changes provide for more flexible and stronger investigation and enforcement tools that can be tailored to circumstances, under a single investigation system.”

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park has also become the eighth trigger for the national environment law-the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

“The marine park was already protected under national environment law because of its status as a world and national heritage-listed area,” Mr Garrett said.

“But now, any activity in the marine park that is likely to have a significant impact on the environment, or any activity outside the marine park that is likely to have a significant impact on the environment of the marine park or other nationally protected matters will require the approval of the Federal Environment Minister.

“Permits under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 may still be needed for activities within the marine park, and most activities will not need my approval.

“But importantly, where approval is required under both pieces of legislation only one application will now be needed, making the process simpler. Environmental impact assessment procedures under both acts have been combined, removing duplication, cutting red tape and streamlining the process.”

The types of activities likely to need approval under the EPBC Act include: major new pontoons, jetties and port developments; aquaculture facilities; tourism developments, including marinas and floating hotels; coastal large-scale subdivisions with potential runoff affecting the marine park; tourist resorts; major coastal infill onshore spoil dumping; and new industry with significant marine discharge.

The longstanding prohibition on mining in the Great Barrier Reef region has been incorporated into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975, capturing this protection in one piece of legislation.

“Together with measures such as the $200 million reef rescue plan, and action on climate change, today's legislative changes will ensure the marine park remains a model for marine management and conservation,” Mr Garrett said.

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Commonwealth of Australia