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Is PM's $1 billion cash splash enough to save the Reef, or his government?

Politics

New funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef will “back in” scientists to help preserve the natural wonder, according to the prime minister.

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It comes after the federal government announced it would spend $1 billion over the next nine years to help manage the reef, after the Commonwealth successfully lobbied UNESCO to delay a decision listing the site as “in danger”.

Of the $1 billion funding, almost $580 million will go towards working with land managers to remediate erosion and improve land condition, while more than $250 million will be spent reducing threats from crown of thorns starfish and prevent illegal fishing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the funding would help to keep the Great Barrier Reef off endangered lists.

“The reef is one of the great natural wonders not only of Australia, but the world, but it’s also an important livelihood for everybody up in far north Queensland,” he told radio station 4BC on Friday.

“We’ve been able to ensure that the reef not only remains protected, despite the many environmental challenges to the reef, but to ensure that its status has been able to be preserved.”

The $1 billion funding will also provide $92 million for research to make the reef more resilient and boost adaptation strategies.

Traditional owners and community groups will receive $74 million for projects to deal with species protection, habitat restoration and citizen science.

The funds come on top of $2 billion previously given to agencies including the marine park authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Mr Morrison said the money was targeted to ensure it has the great impact in protecting the reef.

“There’s a lot of work going on up there, and we’ve got the best reef scientists in the world and we’ve got the best reef managers in the world,” he said.

“What we’re doing is we’re backing them in to ensure that they can do best possible job.”

The funding comes after the federal government lobbied UNESCO to delay a decision about listing the reef as “in danger” until 2023.

Australia took diplomats on a diving trip as part of its bid to convince countries to vote against an earlier draft recommendation supporting an “in danger” listing.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the money would help protect the more than 64,000 jobs in Queensland that rely on the Great Barrier Reef.

“The biggest ever investment in any reef internationally will set us up, help build the most healthy and resilient reef in the face of climate change and all the other challenges we face,” she told ABC TV.

Ms Ley said UNESCO officials had been invited back to examine the reef.

Environmental groups have welcomed the funding announcement for the reef.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society said legacy issues such as erosion and land condition was a gap that needed addressing.

“Given the health crisis the reef is facing and the slow progress in addressing water pollution to date, it’s important this investment in water quality is front-loaded over the next three years,” the society’s water quality expert Jaimi Webster said.

“While this funding commitment will tackle some of the local threats our reef faces, it does not address climate change, the greatest threat to our reef.”

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