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Funding under scrutiny as Run for the Reef slows to barely a walk

Statewide

Labor and the Greens have questioned the Morrison Government’s decision to give $1.5 million to organisers of the Run for the Reef fundraiser, despite the event not having taken place for two years.

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Part of the entry fee for the marathon and half marathon has previously gone to Great Barrier Reef programs, with at least $80,000 raised by entrants to date and plans to expand to 20 cities.

However, with the pandemic disrupting numerous sporting events, the Run for the Reef has drawn scrutiny for being a rare recipient of government support in such times. It is unclear what has become of the taxpayer funding.

As part of the federal budget estimates committee process, Labor senator Don Farrell asked why the “single specific event” had been given $1.5 million when “mass participation sporting events across Australia have been hit hard by restrictions on travel and mass gatherings”.

In a written response, the Morrison Government said the funding would help stage 2022 and 2023 Run for the Reef events across Australia.

“The Run for the Reef events promote healthy and active lifestyles while also raising much-needed funds for the health of the Great Barrier Reef,” the response states.

The event, which launched in 2017, had already received $150,000 in federal funding, and during the Queensland election campaign last year was promised $1.5 million in state funding by Labor leader Annastacia Palaszczuk.

A spokesman for the state Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport said Queensland’s funding was over three years.

“COVID-19 has forced the postponement of the 2021 Run for the Reef event which is now anticipated to take place in March next year,” the spokesman said.

Labor Senator Helen Polley noted the event hadn’t gone ahead for two years and asked the Commonwealth whether there was an open tender where other events could apply for funding, or even specific criteria to meet.

Polley was told “it was a decision of government to fund Run for the Planet to deliver the Run for the Reef events”.

Federal Liberal MP Warren Entsch and State Labor MP Craig Crawford are supporters of Run for the Reef.

The Run for the Reef had been expected to expand to 20 cities to raise more money for the Great Barrier Reef Research Fund at James Cook University.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters asked the Greater Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority why the $1.5 million was not given directly to the Research Fund, but was told the authority was “not involved in this event or its administration, therefore cannot comment on the value for money”.

Efforts to contact the organisers of the event, who have also attracted corporate sponsors, proved unsuccessful.

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