Government agrees to all Reef Taskforce recommendations

Published Thursday, 11 August, 2016 at 07:05 PM

Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef
The Honourable Steven Miles

The Queensland Government tonight (Thursday) detailed how it would reduce catchment runoff to the Great Barrier Reef and spend an additional $90 million over four years.

Releasing the Government’s response to the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce’s findings in Townsville, Minister for the Great Barrier Reef, Dr Steven Miles said the Government had agreed in principle with all 10 recommendations.

“The recommendations set the stage for a bold new era of reform in water quality improvement and that is what we will deliver,” he said.
“We announced immediate support for four recommendations when we received the Taskforce’s Final Report in May. Tonight, I’m delighted to provide more detail about how we will address their other recommendations.

“We have agreed, or agreed in principle, to also review the reef water quality targets, better communicate how everyone can improve reef water quality, use incentives to drive water quality improvements, pursue targeted regulatory approaches, develop a strategic investment plan, and simplify and strengthen governance arrangements.

“We realise that some aspects, such as the regulatory reforms, will require further consultation to ensure we develop the most effective approach. Others, such as the governance reforms, will require working collaboratively with the Australian Government.

“As the Taskforce identified, there is no single tool that will deliver the results we want. We need to significantly increase our use of existing tools and seek more innovative approaches.

“We have committed almost $22 million in 2016-17 for implementing Taskforce recommendations which builds on our existing $35 million investment in reef water quality programs. That brings our total investment to almost $57 million this year.

“I look forward to working with stakeholders, experts and community members to implement this comprehensive suite of work to vastly improve the quality of water flowing to the reef.”

Dr Miles today also received the ‘Costs of achieving the water quality targets for the Great Barrier Reef’ study as the final piece of work from the Taskforce.

A consortium of economic and water quality experts investigated the cost of various policy options for reducing sediment and nitrogen run-off across the reef catchments.

“The study concluded it would cost $8.2 billion in government and private funding to meet the maximum targets across four out of five catchments and make good progress towards the maximum targets in the Wet Tropics by 2025 using current methods and prices,” Dr Miles said.

“The vast bulk of that, $6.46 billion, would be required to meet the maximum 50 per cent fine sediment reduction target in the Fitzroy basin. And a further $1.1 billion is needed to reach the same maximum target in the Burdekin.

“Clearly we would need new methods to achieve the maximum targets in those two catchments, and in the Wet Tropics where the targets cannot be met using the full list of actions in the study. But the projections for other catchments are much more achievable.

“Final targets for each catchment will be developed later this year. The report will allow new costings to be quickly developed once final targets are determined.

“As a guide, the report shows that to meet 75 per cent of the maximum targets across all catchments would cost $3.86 billion. The first half of progress could be achieved in all catchments for just $623 million.

Reducing nutrient is a relatively small component of the overall costs. The ambitious nutrient reduction targets could be met across four out of five catchments (with good progress in the Wet Tropics) for $391 million.

“Taking into account our existing expenditure and new commitments, the Queensland Government will spend at least $450 million on reef water quality initiatives over the next 10 years. This complements the investment by the Australian Government.

“This study is heartening as it shows our current level of government investment will make a difference. Together with private investment, I am confident we can make real progress towards our targets and deliver on our promise to protect the Great Barrier Reef for future generations to enjoy.”

Taskforce member and economist Dr Stuart Whitten, who was also on the peer review panel for the costings study, saidthe value of the study was the framework to calculate the cost of various policy actions and their delivery of environmental outcomes for the reef.

“This will inform better decision-making at a regional scale into the future. Importantly, it confirms those measures prioritised by the Taskforce are also the most cost-effective and the investment pathways are on the right track, even if they have a long way to go.

“Targeting the most cost-effective measures allows us to get most of the way towards the targets at a fraction of the full $8.2 billion cost today; giving us valuable time to find cheaper ways to deliver those expensive last steps in improving water quality.”

Economist and peer review panel member Professor John Rolfe noted the $8.2 billion figure was much lower than the figures discussed in the draft report produced in May 2016 which at that point had not gone through peer review.

“Those early figures did not take into account the already achieved reductions in pollutants from 2009 to 2013. They also included measures that exceeded the targets. The modelling now gives a more accurate estimate of what it would cost to deliver the targets using the knowledge and technology we have available today.”

The Government response and costings report will be available on the Great Barrier Reef Living Wonder website –


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