Final UNESCO ruling on Great Barrier Reef looms

UNESCO is about to reveal whether it will adopt a draft decision to keep the Great Barrier Reef off its "in-danger" list.


Source: AAP

Australia is about to finally learn whether the Great Barrier Reef will be kept off UNESCO's "in-danger" list.

The World Heritage Committee could deliver its final ruling on the reef's status as soon as early Wednesday morning (AEST).

The committee is meeting in Bonn, Germany, and is expected to adopt a draft decision not to list the reef as endangered - three years after UNESCO first threatened to downgrade the natural wonder's health status.

Federal and Queensland ministers have travelled to Bonn in a last ditch effort to persuade the 21 committee members to adopt last month's draft ruling.

Apart from the embarrassment, an "in-danger" listing would seriously harm Australia's economy, as miners, farmers and tourism operators could face tough restrictions on development.

Ministers remain confident the detrimental listing will be avoided after the rollout of a series of initiatives aimed at improving the reef's health and concerted lobbying efforts.

Just last week the federal government announced a panel of 16 experts to provide advice on the implementation of the Reef 2050 plan, while the Queensland government approved funding for real-time reef water monitoring.

But green groups say more needs to be done to protect the reef, and have warned the draft decision, if adopted, will effectively put Australia on probation when it comes to management of the reef.

The draft ruling states UNESCO's concern over the outlook for the reef and requires Australia to give a progress report on its commitments by December 1, 2016.

"We believe the draft report will be confirmed at the (Bonn) meeting but it's not quite over yet," Greenpeace's Nikola Casula said.

"The fact is the reef is staying on the watch list."

2 min read
Published 30 June 2015 at 2:50pm
Source: AAP