Reef foundation confident ahead of inquiry.
Reef foundation confident ahead of inquiry.

$444m question hanging over the reef

THE Great Barrier Reef Foundation is "extremely confident" it can scale-up to use a record $444 million government grant, as its chairman prepares to face a grilling over the decision.

Hearings will be held in Canberra on September 18 and 21 about the grant, which the foundation received without a competitive tender process.

The foundation received the $444 million, to be used over six years, in one lump sum, and says it's confident in its ability to deliver environmental projects for the reef.

"We are also extremely confident we can leverage these funds further through our proven fundraising ability and are excited about this opportunity," the foundation's inquiry submission says.

With just six full-time staff, the charity completed its scaling-up plan last week, which is expected to be published by the government in a fortnight. Labor has this week threatened to claw back the money back if it wins at the next federal election, calling on the foundation not to spend too much of the money.

Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation John Schubert will front the inquiry on September 18.

Dr Schubert will be questioned alongside board members Stephen Fitzgerald, Grant King, a former managing director of Origin Energy, and Paul Greenfield, chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee.

Conservation groups and representatives from government departments including Finance, Treasury, and Environment and Energy will also face the inquiry when it reconvenes days later.

Wilderness Society national director Lyndon Schneiders hopes to understand why the government steered away from its Reef 2050 Plan.

"It's a strong blueprint for actually trying to fix water quality and try to deal with some of the direct impacts on the reef," he told AAP on Friday. "How did you go from a systematic plan that had some chance of success, to this thought bubble?"

A joint study by the Australia Institute and Future Super says the grant is funding fossil fuel projects through the Big Four banks.

The foundation has accounts with Commonwealth Bank, NAB, ANZ, Westpac, Bank of Queensland and Suncorp.

Former Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has maintained there was nothing unusual about the grant.

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