Great Barrier Reef: plan to improve water quality ignores scientific advice | Environment

Australia’s draft plan to improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef has ignored official government scientific advice, which was published by the Queensland and federal governments alongside the new plan this week.

The draft Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan is an update to the plan released in 2013, and provides new water quality targets for specific parts of the reef but has very few other concrete changes overall.

That is despite the plan itself acknowledging that “current initiatives will not meet water quality targets”, noting the “urgently needed” acceleration of efforts and explicitly stating that “a step change is needed”.

The plan repeatedly says it is “based on the best available independent scientific advice, as provided by scientific consensus statement 2017”. But that statement, published alongside the plan, is highly critical of the approach taken in the plan.

“Current initiatives will not meet the water quality targets,” the consensus statement says, calling for increased support and resources, as well as regulation to reduce agricultural runoff – a recommendation also made by a Queensland government taskforce.

In line with every other piece of scientific advice, the consensus statement concludes the reef is in poor and deteriorating quality, and lays the blame for much of the situation on water quality.

Scientists say that in the face of climate change and increased frequency and severity of bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, improved water quality is urgently needed to relieve some of the pressures and to make the reef more “resilient”.

The plan points to $2bn being spent over 10 years by the Queensland and federal governments to protect the reef. But roughly half of that is being spent on water quality.

That is about one-tenth of what a Queensland government taskforce concluded was needed, a figure they said would still not allow the targets to be met.

One member of the Reef Water Quality…

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