Barrier Reef report card shows improvement but still 'poor'

AFTER years of receiving fairly sloppy marks from the United Nations about the state of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland and Commonwealth Environment Ministers are keen to show off a glowing "reef report card" that finds their work is paying off.

Queensland's Andrew Powell and Canberra's Greg Hunt met on Thursday in Brisbane to discuss the reef.

The pair then spruiked the results of its report card that showed there was less pesticides, sediment and nitrogen - which causes crown-of-thorn starfish outbreaks - entering reef waters.

Through better land management in the Mackay-Whitsunday region alone, pesticide run-off fell by 42% between 2008 and 2013.

Queensland alone would spend $35 million this year to help improve reef health.

But it was not all good news.

The overall condition of the Great Barrier Reef remained "poor" with the 2012-13 report card showing inshore reef conditions, water quality, seagrass and coral reefs all given the same low mark, although some parts of the reef improved from a "very poor" status.

Despite this, Federal Minister Greg Hunt said the report card showed the governments had met the goal of improving the quality of water entering the reef.

"That is a massive achievement after a long period of decline," Mr Hunt said.

Mr Powell will take flight to Qatar to convince the World Heritage Committee that not only is the reef not in danger, that it must ignore claims that dredging is putting it at risk.

Mr Powell again pointed to a report by the Federally-funded Australian Institute of Maritime Sciences, which showed over 30 years, the reef was most at risk by run-off, storms and crown-of-thorns starfish. Dredging was not considered a major factor.

Environmental activists have long claimed that proposed dredging campaigns will threaten the reef's health.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society spokeswoman Felicity Wishart said the reduction in run-off meant farmers deserved praise, but warned it would be more than offset by dredging plans.

The report card tracks progress on the reef from 2008 to 2013, a period when Labor held power at both state and federal levels.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which considers the health of the reef, meets from June 15 in Qatar.


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