Australia Says ‘NO’ to UN World Heritage Committee Eyeing the Great Barrier Reef

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By Athena Yenko | February 3, 2014 2:03 PM EST

United Nation said that the Great Barrier Reef should be listed among world heritage sites "in danger." However, this was rejected by Australia and insisted that the Great Barrier Reef is now under substantial progress. Although the inshore areas south of Cooktown were already declining as admitted by the federal and Queensland, a larger area of the natural values was well maintained.

The plan to include the Barrier Reef in the danger list was UN's answer to Australia's approval of dumping 3 million cubic metres of waste from the coal export terminals at Abbott Point. UN also considered the bad effect of many resource projects along the reef's coast since 2012.

If the "in danger" listing will happen, the reef will be downgraded from its good reputation in international and business relations. Hence, the government reported that it started programmes such as sustainability strategy, water quality measures and a Queensland port strategy.

Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt reported that efforts in favour of caring for the dugongs, turtles, seagrass and corals were being done.

''It is a permanent task for every Australian government to protect and maintain the reef. Nobody can ever rest on that, but there should be no way the reef can and should be considered 'in danger','' Mr Hunt told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"The report shows that the Great Barrier Reef's outstanding universal value and integrity remain largely intact and Australia has made substantial progress and commitment in responding to the requests of the World Heritage Committee. We are confident that we have the appropriate processes, resources and environmental protection mechanisms in place to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef continues to be among the best managed and protected World Heritage areas in the world," he added.

A written report for the UNESCO emphasised that "Australia does not consider that the [reef] warrants inclusion on the list of World Heritage in Danger. Australia is taking corrective action and has demonstrated substantial progress and commitment in responding to the requests of the World Heritage Committee and to mission recommendations."

Australia insisted that its government was creating programmes to combat threats of climate change. Efforts were focused in reducing outbreaks of the coral-feeding crown-of-thorns starfish as the species was greatly affected by sediment run-off from land-clearing and agriculture.

On concerns about port developments, Australia said that there were no harmful projects approved. According to the report, there were no "developments that would have an unacceptable impact on the outstanding universal value of the property have been approved."

However, these were all opposed by Australian Coral Reef Society President Peter Mumby who argued that the Great Barrier Reef was already in its worse condition but was only being downplayed by the government. Mr Mumby said that the progress report from the government did not mention that agricultural projects bring 14 million tonnes of sediment that is dangerous for the reef waters, including coral and sea grasses.

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