Joint media release: Great Barrier Reef World Heritage status confirmed

The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water
Senator Nita Green, Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Senator for Queensland
The Hon Leanne Linard, Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef

The Australian and Queensland governments welcome the decision from the World Heritage Committee not to list the Great Barrier Reef ‘in danger’.

This confirms the draft decision from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation handed down last month which cites “significant progress” being made on climate change, water quality, and sustainable fishing – all putting the Reef on a stronger and more sustainable path.

As sources close to UNESCO recently told the French newspaper Le Monde, on climate change and the environment “…the approach [from the Australian government] has changed completely. Between the new government and the old one, it’s a bit like night and day”.

The Australian Government has:

  • Invested a record $1.2 billion in the Reef.
  • Legislated to reach net zero, with a 43 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030 and committed to reaching 82 per cent renewable energy supply by 2030.
  • Invested $150 million to improve water quality through projects such as revegetation, grazing management and engineering work like gully stabilisation.
  • With the Queensland Government, announced the phase-out of gillnets in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park with a $160 million package.
  • Rejected a coal mine that could have direct impacts on the Reef.
  • Withdrawn federal funding for dams that would have had a detrimental impact on Reef water quality.
  • Invested an extra $163.4 million in the May budget to guarantee the future of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, doubling funding for Reef science.
  • Committed to rewriting Australia’s broken environmental laws.
  • Engaged more Indigenous Rangers to manage sea country, including combatting crown of thorns starfish outbreaks, marine plastics and ghost nets.

This is welcome news, however, we know there is more work to do.

We need to act on climate change. We need to protect our special places and the plants and animals that call them home. And that is precisely what we are doing.

We will continue to work with the World Heritage Committee and UNESCO to ensure the protection of the Reef and all World Heritage properties impacted by climate change, right around the globe. 

Quotes attributable to Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek MP:

“Labor is committed to better protecting the Great Barrier Reef – and today the World Heritage Committee has recognised that commitment. 

“Labor is acting on climate change, improving local water quality, protecting our marine life, dealing with invasive species, and investing a record amount of money into reef programs.

"Today’s decision is welcome news, but it wasn’t inevitable. Before Labor was elected, the Reef was on the verge of being listed as in danger, because of Scott Morrison’s weak policies on climate and the environment. 

“That has changed under Labor. Our government will always protect Australia’s special places. And we will always support the millions of Australians who rely on a healthy environment for their work.

“Our Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder of the world. I encourage people from around the globe to come and see it for themselves – you’ll be very welcome.”

Quotes attributable to Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, Senator Nita Green:

“On the ground at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Riyadh, I’ve been delighted to receive so much support from the global community in relation to the Australian Government’s efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

“There is of course more work to do but as Special Envoy I will continue to be focused on delivering our substantial commitments and enhancing Australia’s reputation through the World Heritage convention.

“This decision is welcome news to all Australians, but especially those regional Queenslanders whose livelihoods depend on the Great Barrier Reef. The decision recognises our world class management - by our partners, agencies and stakeholders right across Queensland.”

Quotes attributable to Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Leanne Linard:

“UNESCO’s decision to not list the Great Barrier Reef as being in danger is an acknowledgement of the hard work the Palaszczuk Government has been doing since 2015 to protect it.

“This work has included investing more than $1 billion to protect the reef, including committing $270 million to the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program, which works with industry, agricultural producers and communities to tackle water pollution and drives water quality improvements by preventing pollutants such as sediment, nutrients, and pesticides from running into reef waters and affecting the health of coral and seagrass ecosystems.

“We have also introduced robust and responsible tree clearing laws. We know these laws are working because the latest data shows a 70 per cent reduction in regulated vegetation clearing over three years. A further 59,654 hectares of vegetation regrowth has also been detected. 

“In partnership with the Albanese Government, we are implementing important reforms to protect the reef and precious threatened species by significantly reducing net fishing and other high risk fishing activities impacting the Reef, including ensuring the Great Barrier Reef is gillnet free by mid-2027.

“And we have worked hard to drive down carbon emissions. Queensland has already reduced emissions by 29 per cent based on the latest 2021 data and we continue to work to meet our commitment to zero net emissions by 2050, in line with leading global economies.

“We are also implementing our $62 billion Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan which includes an historic expansion of solar and wind power, supported by two world class pumped hydro facilities, which will deliver a 90 per cent reduction of electricity emissions on 2005 levels by 2035-36.

“However, the job is not over and the work to protect this iconic ecosystem continues. We will continue to proactively protect the Great Barrier Reef, working with the Albanese Government, the science community, industry, conservationists, the community and, of course, UNESCO to protect this natural wonder so it can be enjoyed by future generations.”