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UNESCO report slams Great Barrier Reef management
A report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has expressed "extreme concern" about of the Great Barrier Reef and called for no further major development within the World Heritage Area without an overall assessment of the reef's health.
The report, by UNESCO' World Heritage Council states "considering the high rate of approvals over the past 12 years, this unprecedented scale of development affecting or potentially affecting the property poses serious concerns over its long-term conservation." the UNESCO report found.
It says the area could be listed as a World Heritage Area in danger if "threatening" developments are allowed to proceed.
UNESCO says the 'in danger' status could be applied if the Federal Government does not give the world heritage committee evidence of substantial progress before 1st February next year.
Following the release of the report, environment groups have called for an immediate halt to development.
Greenpeace campaigner Ben Pearson said development on the reef was "out of control", adding "there are 35 major development applications seeking approval within the next 18 months that would impact on the reef.
"Thankfully UNESCO has recognised the scale of the threat and is calling for urgent action.
"We may as well kiss the reef goodbye if we sign off on even half of sixfold expansion of coal port capacity planned in the World Heritage Area."
GetUp's environmental campaigns Director, Paul Oosting, added "this report by UNESCO clearly shows the reef is as risk. UNESCO knows it. The Australian people know it. And now it is time for the federal and state governments to do something about these very real concerns."
However, Federal Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke, said he was not surprised by UNESCO's finding, stating that the Federal and Queensland Governments were already preparing a comprehensive assessment of the reef.
Minister Burke stated "this will be by far the largest and most comprehensive and complex assessment undertaken in Australia and it is still in the early stages."
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says his Government will protect the environment, but won't see the economic future of Queensland shut down, adding "we will protect the environment but we are not going to see the economic future of Queensland shut down.
"We are in the coal business. If you want decent hospitals, schools and police on the beat we all need to understand that."
Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell also reinforced the Queensland Government's commitment to protecting the world's largest living organism.
Minister Powell said the Great Barrier Reef was listed as a World Heritage Area on the basis it was a multiple use area and could accommodate development as long as it was sustainable and had no significant impacts on the World Heritage values.
Minister Powell stated "while the World Heritage area is available for sustainable use, the Reef has very high levels of protection through complementary Commonwealth and State Marine Park zoning plans.
"We will be able to demonstrate to the UN that we can work in coordination with our federal counterparts to ensure Queensland's economic growth while protecting our environment. Discussions will continue at Cabinet on Monday as to how we can achieve this with a particular focus on port developments."
10th November 2011 - GREAT BARRIER REEF TOURISM OPERATORS RECOGNISED FOR GOING THE EXTRA MILE
17th August 2009 - REEF TOURISM STRATEGY TO TACKLE A CHANGING CLIMATE
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