Divers’ pre-emptive strike against UNESCO Great Barrier Reef decision
From the Cairns Post, 29th May 2015
DIVE operators have been rolling out a multi-million dollar pre-emptive strike to combat any negative publicity should the Great Barrier Reef be declared “in danger.”
UNESCO is expected to hand down a draft recommendation in the early hours of Saturday about the Reef’s status at its meeting in Germany.
Queensland’s Deputy Premier Jackie Trad and Environment Minister Steven Miles will accompany federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt to Bonn.
A decision to add the Reef to a list that includes Florida’s polluted Everglades and Sumatra’s denuded rainforests could be devastating for Queensland’s $5.8 billion reef tourism industry, jeopardising more than 60,000 jobs.
The final decision will be made when the World Heritage Committee meets in Bonn in June-July.
There is no ability for a country, or agency, to appeal UNESCO’s decision.
Neither the Queensland Government nor Greenpeace, however, expect the committee to make an unfavourable decision.
As a precaution, Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators executive director Col McKenzie said operators had attended international travel shows to promote the Great Barrier Reef brand during the past six months.
“We’ve been far more active in going to the various diving and snorkelling travel shows and making sure people understand the Reef isn’t dead, that there are excellent experiences to have out on the Barrier Reef,’’ he said.
“There are places you can see not just coral and reef fish, but you can see the big things, like sharks and whales, turtles and dugongs.”
He said no matter what decision was handed down by the World Heritage Committee, the tourism industry would continue its campaign, estimated to cost in the tens of millions of dollars.
A spokeswoman for Minister Miles said that after UNESCO’s draft decision was released on Saturday, there would be ongoing discussions about it before the final decision was due in early July.
“The Palaszczuk Government was elected on a platform to strengthen protections for the reef,’’ she said.
“Since the election we have moved quickly to implement our plans.
“We are hopeful UNESCO will recognise this progress and not list the Reef as in danger.”
Minister Hunt did not respond to questions about what plans were in place should the Reef be listed as in danger.
His spokeswoman, however, said more than $2 billion was projected to be spent on the natural attraction over the next decade to protect it.
“The Federal and Queensland governments have worked closely to respond to all of the World Heritage Committee’s requests,’’ she said.
“We have addressed every single concern raised by the World Heritage Committee in 2011, when Labor was in government.”