Great Barrier Reef's health in neglect
AUSTRALIA'S credibility as protector of the Great Barrier Reef hangs in the balance.
This year the United Nations' environmental arm UNESCO will decide whether to list the Reef as a World Heritage site in Danger.
It follows concerning news from last year about the health of the Reef.
The most sobering assessment came in October, when a major study revealed coral cover had been halved since the mid-1980s because of cyclones, bleaching and the crown-of-thorns starfish.
The study warned that on current trends, what's left of the coral could halve again within the next 10 years.
Earlier this year, UNESCO put Australia on notice over its management of the Reef, criticising the Queensland and Federal governments for their handling of coastal development.
The UN body's concern was sparked by gas industry developments on Curtis Island off Gladstone and prompted UNESCO to send a delegation to Australia to check on the safeguards in place for the environmental asset of global importance.
UNESCO was far from happy with what it found and expressed concern at the scale of development being considered in and adjacent to the World Heritage area.
The global body warned the Reef could be put on the World Heritage in Danger list if Australia did not demonstrate it was taking appropriate action to protect the area.
Such a listing would be a massive blow to Australia's environmental credentials, its international reputation, and also to Queensland's important tourism industry.
Despite the high-level concern, the State Government has shown signs of indifference, bordering on hostility, towards UNESCO and has maintained development can occur without threatening the Reef.
Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke had a very public stoush with the Newman Government, saying he couldn't trust the state with environmental approvals and accusing it of wanting to trash the Reef.
Despite their differences, the two governments from opposite sides of the political spectrum will present a united front when they respond to UNESCO's concerns in the near future. UNESCO's World Heritage Committee will gather in Thailand in June to settle the issue.
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Coral concerns: A diver inspects cyclone damage at Davies Reef.