The Great Barrier Reef now has an official price tag, but Traditional Owners say the reef is worth “too much” for an economic value.
The report assessed the economic, social, and iconic value; its contribution to the economy through industry and employment; and the reef’s brand value to Australia and the international community.
While the report acknowledged the strong connection Traditional Owners have to the reef, it did not put a monetary value on its cultural significance.
Phil Rist is a Nywaigi Traditional Owner and is the chair of the Indigenous Reef Advisory Committee to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
He said for the saltwater mob along Australia’s east coast, the reef is like “our Uluru”.
“It’s such a significant space for all saltwater mob along the east coast here, from Torres Strait right down to Hervey Bay and beyond.”
But while things like tourism and fishing contribute to the economic value of the reef, Mr Rist said those things also contribute to value being lost from an Indigenous perspective.
“It’s all well and good saying it's a $56 billion industry with tourism and all the rest of it but if that comes at the cost of the Traditional Owners’ values then it’s a net loss.”
“... some of the activities that we've been doing for thousands of years are now gone because of tourism or fishing or some of the other industry that impact on our values,” he said.
“If we can't teach our younger men about hunting turtles and dugongs because they are gone, what's the value in that?”
However, Mr Rist said he hopes putting a monetary value on the reef will push the government to protect it more.
Mr Rist thinks more involvement from local Indigenous people would help the health of the reef and boost tourism.
He said it would “value add” to people coming from overseas who want to engage with Australian culture and history.