Money in Budget for Barrier Reef

Bleached coral Great Barrier Reef

Bleached coral Great Barrier Reef

The Australian government will allocate $500 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef from climate change and reduce pollution, local media reported Sunday.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said more than $A500-million (R4.8-billion) would go towards improving water quality, tackling predators, and expanding the reef's restoration efforts.

The funding will be confirmed in the May budget, according to the newspaper.

But scientists and environmental advocates warn that the 1,400-mile-long Great Barrier Reef is already facing a full ecosystem collapse with global warming increasing water temperatures and acidity, leading to extensive coral bleaching.

Although some fear that much of the damage can not be undone, John Schubert, chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, believes that the government's attention gives the reef "real hope".

"We must improve water quality".

However, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that Australia was a world leader in managing and protecting its reef, as the government's Reef 2050 plan had been approved by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee as being the standard for the rest of the world to follow.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Climate and Energy Campaigner, Nikola Casule, said the Reef's destruction could be pinned on fossil fuels. Two successive heat waves in 2016 and 2017 killed off almost half of the northern reef's coral, according to a study published this month.

He said the funding represented the single largest investment for reef conservation and management in Australia's history.

"They look to Australia to provide the technical expertise the scientific research, and to give the best practice management of coral reefs and that's what we demonstrate", she told reporters on Sunday from Cairns on Australia's east coast.

But the cash splash has been met with criticism from conservationists who have accused the government of not doing enough to address the thing that poses the biggest threat to the reef, climate change.

The 2016 bleaching event, the worst on record, mainly affected the north of the reef, while the recent damage has mostly impacted the middle sections, according to scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

"But these are important initiatives, we continue to invest heavily recognising that all Australians have an investment, have an interest, have a stake in the future health of the Reef".

The Great Barrier Reef is a critical national asset, contributing $A6.4-billion (R60billion) a year to the economy.

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