Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a multi-million-dollar plan to protect the Great Barrier Reef against coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish and farm run-off.
The $60 million scheme, outlined by Mr Turnbull in Townsville on Monday, will include funding farmers to reduce sediment run-off and research over the next 18 months.
“The Turnbull Government will support world-first research to secure the viability of the Great Barrier Reef and the 64,000 jobs that rely on its prosperity,” a government statement said.
About $36 million will go towards initiatives encouraging farmers to reduce pollution entering reef waters, with a further $10.4 million to boost the number of vessels targeting an outbreak of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish from three to eight.
Additional field officers providing early warning of further coral bleaching will also be taken on as the reef reels from back-to-back coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017.
The announcement was met by criticism from environment groups who slammed Mr Turnbull for “tinkering around the edges” and not doing enough to reduce harmful emissions.
“If Mr Turnbull genuinely cared about our precious reef and the 64,000 people who depend on it, he would get serious about fighting climate change instead of engaging in fantasy solutions that ignore the real issue,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific Climate and Energy Campaigner Dr Nikola Casule said.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk welcomed the funding, but also highlighted the hundreds of millions of dollars her own government had spent on initiatives to protect the reef and improve water quality.
“The extra funding is welcome but it is nowhere near the amount of funding that my government is investing in our greatest natural asset,” she told reporters in Logan on Monday.