Great Barrier Reef now part of political stoush over funds
THE Great Barrier Reef is the latest topic the region's politicians are mud-slinging about.
This morning, Keppel MP Brittany Lauga called on tourism operators in Keppel to protect their livelihoods and demand Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull match the State Government's funding to safeguard vital jobs and programs on the Great Barrier Reef.
Mrs Lauga said the issue of reef care was "huge” and anyone who derives their livelihood through tourism should be lobbying the Commonwealth to give "urgent attention” to concerns the Great Barrier Reef joint Field Management Program (FMP) is being starved of crucial funds.
"The reef is the No. 1 attraction why tourists say they come to Queensland, so it's imperative that with record of coral bleaching we need to protect this valuable and unique asset on our doorstep.
"We are part of the Southern Barrier Reef tourist zone, so everyone in that zone should unit to ensure the reef remains our No. 1 asset.
"There is widespread concern that the FMP, which supports more than 100 State and Commonwealth positions, is being starved of funds and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is operating as a shell of its former self,” she said.
Mrs Lauga said the Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef, the Hon. Dr Stephen Miles, outlined his frustration in a letter to his Federal counterpart Josh Frydenberg ahead of a Great Barrier Reef Standing Committee of Officials meeting in Brisbane.
However, Capricornia MP Michelle Landry hit back saying it was the State Government that was not willing to work with the Federal Government for the sake of Central Queenslanders.
"If Lauga was serious about safeguarding jobs in Central Queensland then she would back the Rookwood Weir project. That would create 2,100 new jobs and double agriculture production by $1 billion year,” Ms Landry said.
"If Lauga was serious about safeguarding jobs in Central Queensland she would not have backflipped and abandoned Great Keppel Island, which would have created 1,500 jobs.
"If Lauga was serious about safeguarding jobs in Central Queensland, she and her Labor Government would have signed off on the state's Adani coal mine approvals much sooner, instead of holding the project up.
"If Lauga was serious about safeguarding jobs in CQ, she would not have played hand in killing off the commercial fishing industry on the Fitzroy River and surrounding Capricorn Coast- putting families out of business and workers on the dole queue.”
Dr Miles said the State Government has pledged $1.65 million over four years to ensure there is no decline in current service levels which would result in unacceptable risks to the reef.
"Minister Miles has written to Mr Frydenberg this week - again - and before him, to his predecessor Greg Hunt in June, urging both of them to work with us to deliver improved funding for the field management program.
"The reef contributes billions to the Australian economy, and a high quality field management program is vital to the ongoing attractiveness of the reef to tourists,” she said.
Mrs Lauga supports Dr Miles' call to the Commonwealth to immediately match Queensland's commitment, rather than wait until next year for the release of the findings of a review into the joint Field Management Program.
Mr Frydenberg MP said the Commonwealth is investing nearly double what the Queensland Government is for the Reef 2050 Plan and that doesn't include the Federal Government's $1 billion Reef Fund
"These sorts of comments do not help give confidence to the public that the reef is being well managed - which it is,” he said.
"In June this year the Coalition committed an additional $6 million for a brand new Southern Reef Ranger. This vessel will be a flagship asset within the joint Field Management Program and support improved monitoring, compliance actions and crown of thorns culling work as appropriate.”
Ms Lauga said the Palaszczuk Government was working to implement the GBR Water Science Taskforce's recommendations with record funding of more than $57 million a year now being delivered by Queensland.