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Results on Great Barrier Reef report yet to be released

Environment Minister Tony Burke said the six-month delay in starting the review means the results of the review were unlikely to be released until June 30.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said the six-month delay in starting the review means the results of the review were unlikely to be released until June 30.

THE Federal Government handed a progress report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef to the United Nations World Heritage Committee on Friday.

But despite a recommendation from July last year to Environment Minister Tony Burke that he start an independent review into the management of water quality in Gladstone Harbour, no action was announced on the recommendation until Friday.

Mr Burke said on Friday he had appointed a respected scientist Anthea Tinney, the current chairwoman of the Australian National Commission for UNESCO, as the head of the independent review into the management of water quality in Gladstone Harbour.

But the six-month delay in starting the review means the results of the review were unlikely to be released until June 30, he said.

If the results were not released until then, the World Heritage Committee would not able to take into account the review when it meets between June 27 and 29 this year to decide on the reef's fate.

The committee warned last year it would consider placing the entire reef on the world heritage sites "in danger" list if Australia did not take action on the entirety of its recommendations.

That six-month delay was revealed in statements obtained by APN Newsdesk less than two weeks ago from the Federal Environment Department, showing "the review will get under way this year".

Those statements also showed only "key principles" of the review were completed before the start of 2013, and further details were still being finalised.

On the committee's other recommendations, Mr Burke said the government, Queensland Government and other parties had made significant progress.

Those included headway being made on a full strategic assessment of the health, and threats, to the reef, and commitments from both governments to continue a key water quality program.

The release of the report on Friday also sparked promises from the Coalition it wanted to continue to protect the reef, but no specific promises were made.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters again emphasised the risk of coal ports particularly to the reef, with a rising number of proposals within existing port areas, and some outside of, in the pipeline.

Friday also saw numerous protests in capital cities around the country, associated with a WWF campaign to stop numerous port developments which may have an impact on the reef.

Mr Burke also said he would "not give an inch" towards the Queensland Government on the protection of the reef, despite the state government repeatedly saying it was committed to the reef's protection.

Topics:  federal government, gladstone harbour, great barrier reef, unesco, united nations, world heritage


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