Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download PDFDownload PDF   View Parlview VideoWatch ParlView Video

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
25/05/2015
Estimates
ENVIRONMENT PORTFOLIO
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

[11:45]

CHAIR: I welcome officers from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Welcome, Dr Reichelt. Would you like to make an opening statement before we go to questions?

Dr Reichelt : Thank you, Madam Chair, I would like to make a short statement. I want to use this opportunity to highlight some recent achievements in protecting the reef. First I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners on whose land we meet.

In the past 12 months the authority has been responsible for two key documents: the strategic assessment of the Great Barrier Reef region and the 2014 outlook report. We also partnered in the development of the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.

Reef 2050 is fully focused on achieving outcomes for reef health. It also builds on the existing and widely acclaimed reef management system, in particular a comprehensive marine park zoning plan developed over a 35-year period to protect biodiversity and foster sustainable use. The reef's management is underpinned by the science-based strategic assessment in the 2014 outlook report which together provide a comprehensive understanding of the reef's health, the impacts on its health, and actions needed to protect the reef into the future. Its adaptive management and reporting approach enables us to continue building on the existing effective strategies—in other words, continuous improvement—and ensure our investments in the future result in a vibrant and healthy reef for future generations.

The regulation to ban the disposal of capital dredge material in the marine park recently signed off by the Minister for the Environment is another giant step forward in reef protection. The regulation, together with a similar commitment from the Queensland government covering the remainder of the World Heritage area, will prevent more than 29 million cubic metres of capital dredge material from being disposed in the area over the next 10 years. Policies to restrict major port development to current locations and mandating beneficial re-use of dredge material and for port master planning are all taking us in the right direction—that is, enhanced reef protection, while ensuring sustainable use.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is in a strong position as we implement our program of actions to ensure the long-term future of the reef. This program builds on 40 years to this year of management and is informed by the latest and most comprehensive information available on the state of the reef and how best to protect it. We take our role as caretakers of this amazing global icon very seriously. We are confident of the path forward. Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Dr Reichelt.

Senator URQUHART: Thanks, Dr Reichelt. I just want to take you to page 211 of the PBS, where it says that there are no budget measures for the authority. However, $100 million has been provided for reef protection. So what role does the authority play in that fund?

Dr Reichelt : We do not specifically allocate those funds, but we play a critical role in supporting the priority setting process, the understanding of the actions and prioritising those actions for improving water quality and coastal habitats along the reef for which the $100 million was allocated.

For the details of that fund I would refer you to the department. We have had a long-running program now for over 15 years in understanding the interactions between the land and the sea, the coastal habitats, the river runoff and the state of the coastal marine systems. That is underpinning the priority setting for that fund.

Senator URQUHART: Will the authority receive any of the $100 million that was announced for that reef protection?

Dr Reichelt : Can I just check?

Senator URQUHART: Sure.

Dr Reichelt : I want to say no, but I want to check that that is correct. Yes, Senator, there are no figures included in our budget deriving from that revenue.

Senator URQUHART: You do not believe that you will be receiving any of that money?

Dr Reichelt : There are no plans in our current budget.

Mr Thompson : Can I just add: not all of that money has been allocated yet. Regarding the Reef Trust funds, the $100 million, the $100 million announced in the budget is in addition to the $40 million which the government committed to before it came to government, which takes the total Reef Trust amount to $140 million.

As Dr Reichelt said, the authority provides critical advice to the department and through the department to the minister about the priority setting for spending under the Reef Trust. It is also engaged in various forms as a delivery partner, for example through crown-of-thorns starfish, in working with other partners like AMPTO and providing advice in that context. Your question really goes to: will the authority be a direct recipient of some of those funds in order to help deliver some of the outcomes of the Reef Trust? That is yet to be determined for all that funding; so it may or it may not.

Senator URQUHART: Dr Reichelt, what do you believe is the authority's understanding of how that money will be used?

Dr Reichelt : As to the terms of reference for the trust in general, I would probably check with the department who actually administers that fund in terms of directing you to the right source—water quality, coastal habitat protection—but the terms of reference have been published, I believe.

Mr Thompson : They have. Senator, it is probably a question better directed to the department, which we are happy to take up in 1.1 tomorrow.

Senator URQUHART: Yes, I am happy to ask the department. I guess I wanted to understand the authority's understanding of how that money would be used.

Dr Reichelt : Our understanding is as it is expressed in those terms of reference.

Senator URQUHART: In the terms of reference.

Dr Reichelt : Yes.

Senator URQUHART: On budget day the minister said that more than $2 billion will be invested in reef protection over the next decade. That was on 12 May 2015. What is your understanding of how this money will be distributed and does the authority have any role in that?

Dr Reichelt : The bigger picture does belong with the department, who compiled the current and forward plans for overall reef investment. We are expecting to continue our funding as a key part of that in forward budgets and according to priorities that are set on a year-to-year basis through the budget process. But, yes, we are a key part of that ongoing investment in the reef. The complete breakdown of that is a part of the long-term sustainability plan process, and again I would refer you to the minister's department.

Senator URQUHART: You are the department that protects the reef; you are the agency that protects the reef. Why then can't you answer questions about how government money protecting the reef would be spent?

Dr Reichelt : We assisted the department to put their list together for the current annual expenditure. We are familiar with and work with many of the agencies. Of the amount that is being invested, which is published—if I am correct—in the long-term plan, it covers all governments at state and federal levels working on the reef. While we have carriage of the marine park and we regard it as a critically important thing, there are many other agencies—to give you some examples: Maritime Safety, the Queensland Police, the Federal Police, Coastwatch and local governments—all of whom expend funds in looking after the reef. We track all of those and have relationships with all of those, but we ultimately do not determine their investment.

Senator URQUHART: Do you have input into their investment?

Dr Reichelt : We work through partnership. It is critically important. Our act is specific to care and development of a marine park, but it includes an obligation to develop partnerships to achieve the protection of the reef. When it was written in 1975 it was envisaged that no single agency could manage all of the aspects of the environment—essentially, environmental management of an entire ecosystem. Our act is designed to foster partnership and that is reflected in the long-term plan.

Senator URQUHART: Will you have a relationship with the Reef Trust?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, definitely.

Senator URQUHART: What will be the nature of that relationship?

Dr Reichelt : We have assisted the department, given advice already, on the structure of their terms of reference. That is why we are fully supportive of them. We work with the department—the secretariat for the trust sits within the department—on a daily to weekly basis. We have a very cooperative relationship. As Mr Thompson mentioned, future allocations of funds may well involve our support or oversight, but they have not been determined yet. We would welcome that, provided it was within our competency to do that.

Senator URQUHART: Do you see that role as a duplication of what your role is and that of the Reef Trust?

Dr Reichelt : The Reef Trust has only existed for just under a year. It is a new thing.

Senator URQUHART: But is it a duplication of role?

Dr Reichelt : No, it is not.

Senator URQUHART: What is the difference then?

Dr Reichelt : The Reef Trust is a funding mechanism which in its design can accept revenue from a range of sources. It has its purpose as set out in the terms of reference. It is an innovative step by government and we fully support it.

The other thing with the threats to the reef is that the biggest threat is climate change and water quality running off from the land, both of which are essentially outside of our jurisdiction. The partnerships that we have with the programs of government at both levels, and with the farming community, are critical. We do a lot of our work through partnership. The trust is a new vehicle to support protective measures that would not have been available for the reef otherwise. I think it is a great step forward.

Senator URQUHART: Do you think that the Reef Trust has been groomed to take over work from the authority?

Dr Reichelt : No, definitely not. Where I was saying that I thought that we would be engaged in the future—again I cannot speak hypothetically—are funds to do with the operations of marine park management. We will have a very direct role in those, but I do not know what they will be. It is hypothetical. The purpose of the trust is to improve the health of the reef, largely through actions relating to water quality, some of which could involve farmers, some of which could involve restorative actions, some of which could involve in-water action.

Senator URQUHART: I am just trying to clarify here whether I understood what you were saying before when we talked about the Reef Trust and other bodies. Are water quality and climate change outside of your jurisdiction? That is as I understand what you said. If that is the case, how is that the case?

Dr Reichelt : We are set up to care for and develop a marine park. We give permission for commercial uses, unless they are accepted through other legislation, such as Maritime Safety. Even then, Maritime Safety does use some of the provisions in our act, such as pilotage. Every commercial tourism operator must have permission from the authority.

The fishing is delegated under our act to the Queensland legislation because it was pre-existing and the governments of the day did not want to create a duplicative service from the Marine Park Authority. We have specific powers under that act. The board has those powers from the act through parliament. The things that are affecting on the land above the low-water mark on the coast of Queensland by and large are outside our jurisdiction. There is really no case where we can move up out of the water and pass permissions. We have done that on one occasion with aquaculture facilities in the early 2000s, until they were then delegated back to the Queensland government. By and large, things happening on the land belong to the Queensland laws or the national laws that are outside the marine park.

Senator URQUHART: Even though, as I understand what you said earlier, two of the main things affecting the reef are climate change and water quality, you do not have any control over those jurisdictions?

Dr Reichelt : No. Climate change has the United Nations framework convention. It is a global problem which Australia has got a key part in it. It is beyond the purview of a marine park manager to manage that. What we do is to strongly influence that debate by explaining in no uncertain terms the impacts of the global phenomenon of climate change on coral reefs worldwide and specifically the Barrier Reef. Working with the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, we can forecast imminent coral bleaching caused by atmospheric conditions. We track it, we publicise it and we try and influence positively the governments of the world to take steps to solve that problem. That is climate change.

We also have programs, which we supported in the past, of industry adaptation—industries that are users of the reef—climate change adaptation. We write into our permissions best practice effects like reducing plastics pollution and other types of things in addition to climate change. But essentially it is not something that is regulatable through a marine park. To save you some time, the case for water quality as they say, the reef begins at the top of the range. We take a vital interest. We have used Queensland's data to map fully the coastal habitats of Queensland—outside our jurisdiction, but which we think are tightly connected to the reef. We have then worked with the natural resource management bodies to incorporate these sensitivities into their programs of restoration on land. So we have not been passive at all in water quality. But the solving of that problem will come through changes on the land more than in the water.

Senator URQUHART: So at the same time as committing $100 million for reef protection, the government is also cutting the authority's funding by around one quarter over the forward estimates, and cutting five staff from your agency. That is correct, isn't it?

Dr Reichelt : The reductions in staff numbers in this budget are the result of some staffing redundancies that we initiated over 18 months ago. They are the end of a process by which we have moved to a lower staff number.

Senator URQUHART: But there will be five less; is that correct?

Dr Reichelt : Average staffing level, yes.

Senator Birmingham: Let us be clear, Senator Urquhart that Dr Reichelt did say a process initiated over 18  months ago.

Senator URQUHART: Yes, I understood that.

Senator Birmingham: That is fine, as long as you understand that—

Senator URQUHART: I heard that.

Senator Birmingham: And can do the sums of what that means in terms of who was in government.

Senator URQUHART: How will those cuts affect your business and the outcomes that you want to achieve?

Dr Reichelt : The reductions across the Australian public sector are well known. We had the efficiency dividends, and the staffing levels we match to our available resources. We have a very vigorous annual reprioritisation program. The work we have done over the last two years on the strategic assessment and the long-term sustainability plan are now our road map for going forward. We are moving resources from within the authority into areas of highest priority in the near term for establishing that plan. Things that will have higher priority will be, for instance, the integrated monitoring program that we asked to be put in the plan and has been put in the plan. In regard to the concept of regional management, the staff that have been in the regional offices will be working with the head office staff to work more closely with communities along the coast. In the case of reprioritising, inevitably lower priority things do wind down. Some of our permissions we will consolidate. There are administrative savings we can make. I am trying to think of the next steps, but essentially we are now on a stable basis for the forthcoming year. We are not anticipating any further redundancies and we are looking forward to getting on with our priorities.

Mr Thompson : You made a comment about the authority's budget reducing by a quarter. In the Portfolio Budget Statement, at page 215, and that may be where you are getting the figures from, there is an explanation of the program expenses and the changes that are happening there; the cessation of crown-of-thorns starfish funding.

Dr Reichelt : Can I ask Mr Barrett to give some more detail on that?

Mr Barrett : With the reductions you are referring to from this financial year to the next budget financial year, the big figure change there is the COTS funding of $2 million that is in the budget for 2014-15. The minister has now announced a further $7 million over the next three years. That is not in the budget papers at this stage. That is probably the major influence. There are some additional costs we have incurred for legal expenses this financial year, which we are not anticipating will be in next year's costs. They are probably the two major influences between the two figures.

Senator URQUHART: Dr Reichelt, the government has been quite strong in terms of reef protection. So how do you reconcile those cuts to staff and budget and the government's words on reef protection?

Dr Reichelt : We accept the budgets as they are passed by the government process. We are a well-funded agency. We are running up and down about 10 per cent every couple of years for the last five years. We went as high as 220. We are now at 195 anticipated ASL. It is a reduction, but not historically low. We have something like 20 per cent more staff now than were there when they did the rezoning program 10 years ago. As I say, we continually reprioritise. I think the additional funding can only be seen as good news for the Great Barrier Reef. The federal minister's announcements of $140 million, or $40 million plus another $100 million, are dealing with what is the most proximal clear and present danger to the reef, which is the land runoff. It influences crown-of-thorns, which is responsible for 40 per cent of the coral losses we have seen offshore. We are very happy with that. We will be focusing now, with the many partners in the long-term plan, on designing better systems for integration of monitoring for developing new targets. In a sense, the resources coming in now signal a big step change forward in the reef. The fact that several hundred million dollars per year is not all coming through our budget doesn't matter to us as long as the reef is being protected.

Senator URQUHART: In terms of that, is there a crossover between the work of the authority and the Reef Trust?

Dr Reichelt : The Reef Trust, as I was saying earlier, is essentially a funding mechanism for actions—not entirely, but a lot of them would be outside the marine park. Where they are inside the marine park we look forward to close working relationships there. It is something we welcome.

Senator URQUHART: So you do not see it as a takeover of elements of the current role of the authority?

Dr Reichelt : No, I see it as more shoulders to the wheel of looking after the reef. I think it is terrific.

Mr Thompson : Senator, just to give some more flesh to that, a few projects have been announced for funding under the Reef Trust. The Reef Trust, as Dr Reichelt said, is a funding vehicle which the department administers, but in very close partnership with GBRMPA. But to give some examples, as part of the dugong and turtle protection plan, there is an element which was for marine debris clean-up. GBRMPA runs that part of that program, that activity. Crown-of-thorns starfish we have talked about already. GBRMPA is closely involved in advising on the best areas to target the eradication of crown-of-thorns starfish. Competitive tender for nutrient reduction in the wet tropics region and the cane industry, close partnerships with the Wet Tropics Management Authority and with the cane industry, which is the right partnership to have in that context to deliver that funding. It is really about choosing the right partnerships. As Dr Reichelt said, in terms of the overall management and prioritising of funds under Reef Trust, we have a very good and strong relationship with the authority.

Senator URQUHART: My issue is that I find it extraordinary that the government has a massive push to keep the reef off the List of World Heritage in Danger and, while the work being done by the department is worthwhile, at the same time the funding is being reduced to the authority. It seems to be distancing the authority from any involvement in action to protect the reef. I might be wrong, but if I am, can you tell me how I can interpret those two agendas? They seem to be conflicting.

Dr Reichelt : Yes, I do disagree with the way you have framed that. The authority's role continues to strengthen, in my view, given the role we had in, firstly, setting out the risks to the reef. TheGreat Barrier Reef outlookreports 2009 and 2014 were very strong documents, written completely independently and have been among the less disputed—if not disputed at all—rocks on which the issues of the World Heritage reviews have stood. Our role in the field management program, which we do jointly with Queensland and have done for 30  years, has never been stronger. We had a new vessel commissioned less than a year ago. It is revolutionising our access to field operations. The priorities that are set for managing the reef with the joint funds with Queensland are agreed by me and the head of the Premier's Department in Queensland. It is one of the few Queensland funded programs which was maintained right through the Global Financial Crisis. The authority's strategic assessment was a key input to the long-term plan. Because there are so many stakeholders involved—private, civil society and also other governments—it would not be up to the authority to have the one plan for the reef that everyone else must dance to. That is a partnership. But we feel our role in it has been properly recognised. Of the actions in that plan, about one-third of them related to the authority's core business and things that we are doing or have plans to do.

CHAIR: Dr Reichelt, can I seek clarification there? You are saying that the Reef Trust is in no way seeking in any sense to replace the work of the authority. It is in place to augment the work of the authority?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, the Reef Trust is. My thesis there was that it has not in any way eroded our capacity; it has built on it and is funding things that would not perhaps otherwise have been funded. My point about jurisdiction is that a lot of those things are happening outside of the marine park, but we welcome them and they are critical. They are well documented in both the Outlook report and the strategic assessment. There is no duplication in the Reef Trust. There is no encroachment or duplication of function.

CHAIR: It has had bipartisan support, state and federal?

Dr Reichelt : Yes. I will leave the bipartisanship to the minister, but we have a very good cooperative relationship with the Queensland officials.

CHAIR: Thank you, Dr Reichelt.

Senator Birmingham: Chair, I think it is important to note that the continued cooperation of the Queensland government following the change of government there has been welcomed as we work through these obviously very important issues around the protection of the reef and the protection of the reputation of the reef in relation to the World Heritage assessment.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator URQUHART: Dr Reichelt, were you involved in the development of the policy to commit $100  million to the Reef Trust?

Dr Reichelt : No, the announcement of those funds came from the minister.

Senator URQUHART: Yes, but were you involved in the development of the policy, though?

Dr Reichelt : We were involved in the design of the vehicle and the terms of reference for it. We were closely consulted.

Senator URQUHART: I take that as a yes.

Senator Birmingham: The Reef Trust was initially established with a smaller quantum of money, as you appreciate, Senator, and Dr Reichelt was involved through that process. I am sure that he, like all who care about the reef, would have welcomed the additional funds that went into that—

Senator URQUHART: I am not questioning the additional funds. The question to Dr Reichelt was whether he was involved in the development of the policy that then committed the $100 million to the Reef Trust.

Dr Reichelt : My understanding was that it was a budgetary decision of the government to augment that trust, with which we are closely involved. The budgetary decision is a matter for the government.

Senator URQUHART: I understand the budgetary; the question was: were you involved in the development of that policy? I take that as a yes.

Dr Reichelt : Yes—the policy of the Reef Trust establishment.

Senator URQUHART: Thank you. Thanks, Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator SINGH: Following on from Senator Urquhart, I want to ask about the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan. I have had a fairly decent look at it. Obviously the launch of that coincided with the announcement by the minister of the Reef Trust funds. I want to ask specifically, though: what new initiatives is GBRMPA looking forward to delivering under the new reef plan?

Dr Reichelt : The new initiatives that have been incorporated in the plan from the marine park authority are: firstly, to establish new sets of standards and thresholds for the objectives of maintaining reef health. We requested and have had agreed, that we will develop a cumulative impact assessment policy for future decision-making in the Barrier Reef. We also argued for, and see in there, the development of a net benefit approach to managing the reef. By that I mean that, where the reef has been regarded in a poor state now, the objective should not be to maintain it that way; it should be to improve it. Doing no harm will not be a sufficient criterion in future. So a net benefit approach.

The other two are to elaborate on what it means to have a reef recovery planning and decision-making process. We do have statutory instruments that now do regional planning, such as our plans and management. But our specific task in the coming years will be to argue essentially for the equivalent of catchment management as it is done on the land but in the ocean, because the reef is such a large area and it is a collection of sub-ecosystems. We think we need to be thinking regionally. The reefs off Princess Charlotte Bay are very different to the reefs off Bundaberg in their influences and responses from management.

The fifth and final initiative that I want to highlight is the development of an integrated monitoring reporting program. In any one year there are probably between 50 and 60 separate monitoring programs running in the Great Barrier Reef region. Some of them are highly coordinated and connected but others are not. Some are short term. What we would like to do, working with Queensland and other stakeholders, is design a system that will give us the information we will need to tell in future Outlook reports is this plan working or not.

Those Outlook reports are five yearly. The reef 2050 plan projects out 35 years. So in six or seven Outlook reports we do not want to be in the position of not having taken up the opportunity now to collect the right information to inform future decisions.

The really positive thing for me about the reef 2050 long-term sustainability plan is that it has been borne out of what they call the adaptive management cycle. It is not designed to sit on a shelf. It is designed to be reviewed regularly, modified where it is needed. If the trends in some things are still negative after action has been taken to rectify them, we will do something different. It is a matter of changing what you are doing over time. It is easy to say but it actually is not implemented that well anywhere on the Great Barrier Reef. It is quite a difficult thing to do. So that integrated monitoring and reporting program will be the key to that.

Senator SINGH: There are quite a few new initiatives, noble initiatives, if I might say so.

Dr Reichelt : They are just the ones that the marine park authority has. There are over 100 initiatives and actions.

Senator SINGH: I am only interested in the ones the marine park authority, at this point in time, would be looking at implementing. So those new initiatives would be on top of your primary existing work program?

Dr Reichelt : We are always looking for ways of doing things differently. We have ongoing base programs that we evolve over time. We have our joint field management program. I mentioned earlier our system of permissions and permits. We are always looking for ways to improve them. We are always working on policy in one form or another.

The authority has been through decadal cycles. Firstly it was design of a marine park, then it was managing tourism growth, then fisheries explosions in the 1990s and then the water quality debate really did not kick off until the early 2000s. It is part of our normal work to adapt over time.

The number of people working in fisheries now is much less than it was 15 years ago. But what we are looking at now is people with more skills who will evolve into this cumulative impact analysis. The monitoring skills we change with the issues. We will maintain a core program but even those programs will evolve.

Senator SINGH: What is the cost of these new initiatives?

Dr Reichelt : It is difficult to cost them very specifically.

Senator SINGH: Even just a rough kind of prediction?

Dr Reichelt : I am hesitating to guess but I will say it will be a significant subset of our innovation cycle. It will be that 10 or 20 per cent of the staff will be working on the policies. Why it is difficult to say is that at any one time, say in developing an Outlook report, over half of the staff will in some way be contributing to it for brief periods in different ways, depending on their expertise. I expect these policies to be the same. It is not something to pin down to two people for two years-type of discussion.

Senator SINGH: Given that there are clearly a significant number of new initiatives, new actions that GBRMPA will be leading the delivery of in the reef 2050 plan, how does GBRMPA plan to effectively deliver those new initiatives in addition to delivering your ongoing core program responsibilities when you have had a direct cut in your budget, as outlined at pages 213 and 215 of the PBS? I think that is around $4½million.

Dr Reichelt : Our annual expenditure is in the high 40s, $49 million. Given the various sources of revenue that we have, yes, we have tightened our belt, as have other agencies. I do not really distinguish our core business from these new initiatives. Essentially they are the work that the field management program will be doing, that the science group will be doing. We will move to these priority areas and drop away from others.

The other thing is that most of those initiatives cannot be done by us alone. Some of these, such as the complex cumulative impact assessment policy, would need to involve quite a range of both regulators and regulatees. We will allocate appropriate staff and we will be careful not to take on too many things at once as well. In other words, some of these will be done in successive waves of activity and effort.

Senator SINGH: I am trying to understand how these new initiatives are going to be implemented when you have had a direct cut to your budget, a significant cut to your budget. You have outlined that you still do have core program responsibilities. I understand that you are saying that some of those evolve over time and may be wrapped into these new initiatives, but I could not say what the total sum would be. You want to achieve some quite key outcomes from that reef plan, some noble outcomes, like, as you said, the reporting and monitoring program, setting new standards and thresholds for reef health and the cumulative impact assessment policy, the net benefit approach to managing the reef, reef recovery. There is quite a detailed list there that is going to have to be, if implemented, funded somehow to achieve those outcomes. I am just trying to understand how you are going to do that when you have had such a cut to your budget.

Dr Reichelt : I cannot think of a way to express it. There is not a separation. When we did the Outlook report it took us two years roughly, a bit more, to do the first one. We did that with the same number of staff that we had before. What we did was prioritise our efforts. We used most of the expertise in the agency to do them. So for the time that we were working on that, that was our single biggest project, the same with the strategic assessment and to some extent the long-term sustainability plan, although that involves many more partners. We will do the same thing with these new policy areas. They do not sit separate from the ongoing work. The people that work on our permits processes, for instance, would be intimately involved with developing a policy on cumulative impact assessment.

Our core business is quite different from something such as, say, a met bureau who has a functional delivery operation every day, every minute of the day. Our work tends to be less public reporting but more about delivering the protective mechanisms in the reef. We will be tightening our belt in some areas. If anything, we will slow down some work, if we need to. We will give priority to the integrated monitoring and reporting in the coming two years. To me, that is the next critical thing. That is equivalent to our next Outlook report. That is all I can say.

Senator SINGH: Let us take that initiative. I think you said earlier that the field management area of GBRMPA would play a role with that. Is that correct?

Dr Reichelt : Yes. The field management already is playing quite a large role in monitoring the reef through reef health impact surveys.

Senator SINGH: Would you see them being the area of the authority that would do that new initiative work?

Dr Reichelt : No. I mentioned 60 different programs. One or two of those related to the authority. The rest relate to other groups.

Senator SINGH: I am talking about the monitoring.

Dr Reichelt : Yes, monitoring, 60 monitoring programs. What we are looking to do is work with the groups that already have resources to monitor. Some of them we have quite big partnerships with. The Australian Institute of Marine Science has the world-leading, long-term coral monitoring program. We will work with them to look at does that program need to evolve to incorporate into the new long-term planning process. So we will work with the major providers. The other thing is that at any one time there are hundreds, if not thousands, of graduate students working on the Great Barrier Reef through multiple research stations. We will be generating data standards and data repositories for their information. It is quite a broad-scale thing. But with the actual effort from within our agency, it might be done with just a handful of people.

Senator SINGH: Let us go to page 215 of the PBS, which does outline the budget cut, particularly to that Great Barrier Reef field management line item. That shows the day-to-day field management is the same as last year and in the forward years it stays exactly the same. This is obviously an important area of GBRMPA's work and it does not provide for any increased costs for staff and operations in that period. How essential an aspect of the day-to-day field management does GBRMPA consider on-water compliance and enforcement to be?

Dr Reichelt : It is very important. I need to check with chief finance officer. It is not subject to efficiency dividend?

Mr Barrett : Correct.

Dr Reichelt : So it is with all our programs, and of course it is unusual in the APS to have something that is not subject to it. So it has been maintained over time. Where we have had major capital we have gone for separate requests for that, which we did a couple of years ago, and then quite recently the Reef Ranger was launched. That was a $5 million initiative. So the capital works are there. It is a very important program and it is being maintained.

Senator SINGH: I am trying to understand GBRMPA's 2014 Reef Outlook report that noted on page 214:

Due to funding issues, the Joint Field Management Program must prioritise compliance activities based on a detailed risk analysis and is not able to comprehensively enforce legislation.

So how then does GBRMPA expect to deliver effective on-water management under a constrained budget where you have not been given any increase in the forward estimates to do this work, let alone any new initiatives?

Dr Reichelt : The reef is such a large place that we have got 100 staff from Queensland and about 20 from our organisation that work together. They are spread thinly. That comment in Outlook reflects that. I am sure anyone standing here would say we would like to see more of us distributed along the reef. We have to prioritise. We do have quite sophisticated intelligence systems and we do have strong cooperation. For instance, Coastwatch flies for us. We do not arm our officers. If there is risk of needing that we cooperate with Queensland police and federal police. It is more than just us involved in managing the reef from a compliance point of view.

Senator SINGH: I am just trying to understand this because the government seem to be on a really big push at the moment to show the World Heritage Committee that they are serious about protecting the reef. Your 2050 reef plan outlines a number of new initiatives which you have shared with the committee today that will need to be funded in some way to be achieved. Yet I am really unclear how GBRMPA is going to implements these new initiatives when you have had a drop to $7.5 million in your budget in the forward years, which is outlined on page 215. It is just really unclear how the government is going to achieve these new initiatives in trying to protect the reef. If it is really serious about protecting the reef I think this committee today should be able to walk away knowing exactly how that is going to occur. We have $100 million from the reef trust which has not been allocated. We have no clue on that. We have all of these new initiatives. At the same time the minister is obviously flying around the world telling the World Heritage Committee that everything is okay and the reef will be protected. So if you can provide some clarity into how that is going to be achieved and put some funding allocation to it, then I think we will be clearer and feeling more confident at least.

Dr Reichelt : I am not able to talk about future budgets. Our budget has gone up—

Senator SINGH: Perhaps Dr de Brouwer can respond.

Dr Reichelt : I will say that a significant part of the shortfall, as Mr Barrett mentioned, went to things like the crown-of-thorns, which at the time of the budget preparation was a concluding program. Between the budget and this hearing new funding has been announced. How it plays out in terms of our role in that has not yet been decided, but some of the variation in our budget is a matter of a significant project. The year before it was the response to Cyclone Yasi, for instance. I do not think I can say anything more about future budgets.

Dr de Brouwer : The budget profile over large parts of the forward estimates is stable. In table 1.1, it is the last year where there is the bigger decline that Senator Urquhart also mentioned, and that largely comes about because the national Landcare moneys have not been allocated yet in that year. As they are allocated, that budget will change. So it is the allocation in the last year of the forward estimates from Landcare that will come into play there.

Senator SINGH: So at 1.1 you are talking about improving the outlook of the Great Barrier Reef. That drop in $7.5 million is to do with the National Landcare Program?

Mr Thompson : Perhaps I could add to Dr de Brouwer's answer. The box above that explains that the government has provided funding through the National Landcare Program for a range of activities in GBRMPA. That year, 2018-19, is the first year of the next five-year cycle of the National Landcare Program. So national Landcare programs, like NHT1, NHT2 and Caring for our Country, work on five-year cycles when money is allocated, and that year, 2018-19, is the first year of the new cycle under the National Landcare Program. The government has not made decisions yet about the allocation of that funding. That is why that table and the budget papers do not presume what that allocation will be.

Senator Birmingham: Senator, if you look narrowly at GBRMPA's budget allocations alone, of course for the near term they incorporate those Landcare programs. They might incorporate some of the announced elements of activity or programs out of the reef trust, if there is a role for GBRMPA envisaged there. Of course, as you move through the forward estimates, as those future Landcare program decisions are made or as future reef trust decisions are made, you may see the profile for GBRMPA increase as a result of that. It is important, in talking about funding and activities around the Great Barrier Reef, to take a holistic approach and recognise that Australian government funding and Queensland government funding to the tune of more than $200 million a year is involved in supporting the resilience of the reef, and GBRMPA's role in that is about a quarter in terms of the notional funding allocation. Of course, that ebbs and flows a bit, depending on whether they are the program delivery agent for certain activities versus other parties working to support the resilience of the reef being the program delivery agent for those activities. Ultimately, it is about the outcomes regarding what is done in terms of protecting the reef and making sure that the most effective party for any given program is delivering those outcomes. It is not about the particular budget line of one party to that activity. You can pull faces if you like, Senator Singh; GBRMPA play a hugely important role, but they are not the only party working on the protection of the reef.

CHAIR: Minister, can you clarify for me whether $2 billion has been allocated across several jurisdictions towards the protection of the reef over the next 10 years?

Senator Birmingham: The $200 million figure I cited before is an annualised figure, reflecting the different contributions of the Commonwealth and Queensland governments. Officials might be able to pull the aspects of that together if you want; otherwise I am sure that we can do that on notice. I can see officers to my left and right preparing this, so officials will be able to assist in providing details of that $200 million contribution. Obviously, in terms of the minister's and the government's comments about $2 billion over the next year, that is what that is in part based upon.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Singh, do you have much more?

Senator SINGH: No; a final one.

Senator Birmingham: Do you want Mr Thompson to take you through the summary of the $200 million, or Dr Reichelt? They both have it in front of them.

Mr Thompson : It is a publicly available document, as I think Dr Reichelt indicated before. As the minister indicated, the breakdown, which is publicly available, is the allocation in 2014-15. The government has said it projects to spend over the 10 years $2 billion. So that is the projection.

Senator SINGH: Thank you. I will finish, Dr Reichelt. For the Hansard, if I was pulling a strange face it was because I could not quite understand the minister's answer because it turned into a ramble, but I will be happy to go back through Hansard and see whether it made any sense.

Senator Birmingham: I was just inviting you to think about the bigger picture, Senator Singh, and all of the different funding sources supporting the reef, and not just to look narrowly at the bottom line of GBRMPA.

Senator SINGH: Dr Reichelt, not wanting to waste any more time, can you outline the risks to the reef caused by climate change?

Dr Reichelt : Yes. Firstly, let me say, in outlook it rates as the highest risk to the reef.

Senator SINGH: The highest?

Dr Reichelt : Yes. It comes in various forms. The actual impacts stem from global warming effects, long-term higher temperatures in summer leading to coral bleaching becoming more frequent. Coral bleaching has only been known for about 20 or 25 years. The earlier work on the reef did not make comment on it. It certainly was new to me, and I have been working on the reef for over 40 years. I think the threat of coral bleaching is a sudden-death type risk. With the corals, especially shallow corals, over half of the barrier reef in 1998 went pale—bleached. Bleaching is the phenomenon of the coral being stressed by high temperature, and the microorganisms that give coral its colour, which are a plant cell, disappear from the coral. The coral is then running without batteries, without energy, and, if it does not regrow those—in other words, if the water does not cool down over about a month or a six-week period—

Senator SINGH: Could you explain that coral bleaching is a result of climate change?

Dr Reichelt : Yes. It is to do with when summer temperatures over large areas—which did happen in 1998 as the hottest year for a long time; I think globally it was a peak year then—cause thermal stress on the coral and it does it on the scale of ecosystems. In that year 16 per cent of the world's coral reefs died; I am sure that many more of them bleached. It occurred in the Caribbean, the eastern and western Pacific, and the Indian Ocean east and west. It rolled around the world over a 12-month period and it was dramatic for corals. We have seen nearly as big an incident. It is not usually so coherent; that was an unusual year because the weather shifted halfway through, to continue the stress. But it is a phenomenon that essentially reduces coral cover to near zero over very big areas. It is visible from the air. We can survey it with light aircraft, as it is so visible in the shallow water, which we did in 1998. Dr Vertessy said earlier that the indicators for El Nino, which are an indicator of heat stress in eastern Australia, are looking as bad as we have seen—1998 again. So we are quite worried about where that trend is going. It is another eight months until peak temperatures next January and February, but the trend lines are indicating a major event is brewing. That is a risk that occurs every summer. This year we had a hot year and we had widespread what they call 'paling'; the corals incipiently started to lose their algal cells.

Senator SINGH: Do you then agree with the foreign minister's assertion from November last year that the Great Barrier Reef is 'not under threat from climate change'?

Dr Reichelt : I would have to see the context of the quote. The long-term risks from climate change are very clear in our report. I do recall some confusion about what the word 'endanger' meant because of the—

Senator SINGH: I can give you the full quote, if you would like. It is from the Sydney Morning Herald on 21  November. The minister's quote is: 'It's not under threat from climate change because its biggest threat is nutrient runoffs from agricultural land and the second biggest threat is natural disasters, but this has been for 200  years.' You have outlined that the biggest threat is climate change, so I would take from that that you would not agree with the foreign minister, who regards the Great Barrier Reef as being not under threat from climate change.

Dr Reichelt : I would be nervous about unpicking a quote from a journalist of something said. I would repeat what I said. Climate change is the biggest single long-term risk. I only got through one of the three ways that it can be a risk, because bleaching is the one that is most immediate. There is a problem with the changing pH of the ocean. On the climate and the warming, when does weather become climate? I have heard Dr Vertessy explaining that. The long-term models show broad trends in regional climates, but each year it is hard to predict that in two years’ time we will have a certain weather event. The risk, as we describe it, is relatively immediate but unpredictable from year to year, but the trend in temperature is rising. As for coral bleaching, corals can recover from it, but it is harder for them if it is massive and widespread, because the parent stock is low. Deep-water corals are less affected.

The second area that is of significant concern—and it is a long-run risk—is the risk of the changing pH of the ocean. The acidification or the reducing pH—and eventually it will turn acid—is already detectible on the Barrier Reef. A study was done by AIMS where 300-and-something coral cores from all over the reef all showed exactly the same beginnings in the early 1990s of a decreasing coral skeleton density that they attribute to pH. It is not a model. It is a chemical model, but it is not variable. If there is a certain concentration of CO2 in the air, you will have a certain acidity in the surface waters where that is dissolving into carbonic acid. The track of CO2 globally is very smooth upwards, as is widely publicised, and the ocean pH is changing. That leads to effects for many organisms, but corals are less able to crystallise their skeleton. So they get weaker skeletons; it is a kind of osteoporosis effect.

We have a vision of the future, again published by AIMS, of what that might look like if it becomes too extreme, with CO2 seepages in the Milne Bay area off Papua New Guinea, where bubbles of CO2 are coming into the ocean and there is a high acidity in an area. I have a sense that it is in an area the size of this room, but the corals in that area are growing in a stunted way, with holes in them and less diversity. So we have a picture of why we do not want the CO2 to keep going up. I could go on, but they are the two big ones that are quite global for that climate change issue. I have already mentioned runoff of sediments, nutrients and pesticides.

What is quite recent is that it has been hypothesised for 35 years, but in the last five years it is much clearer now, that excess nutrients are very closely related to crown-of-thorns outbreaks. At one point it was thought that it was just the fresh water that was doing it. It is difficult to prove, but the arguments are strong. The problem with the crown-of-thorns is that once the outbreaks become established, it is possible that they do not need anything further; the nutrients kick it off, but then they are self-sustaining until other parameters slow them down. So the central one-third of the Barrier Reef has had up to 70 per cent of its reefs denuded over the last 30 years about three times. A lot of the coral loss that was in the AIMS paper came from the starfish.

Senator SINGH: Thank you; that was a really good briefing.

Dr Reichelt : They are the top ones.

Senator SINGH: Have you given a briefing to the foreign minister on these threats?

Dr Reichelt : We would refer the foreign minister to our publications. I have met the foreign minister and talked about those.

Senator SINGH: So you have given a briefing to the foreign minister on threats to the Great Barrier Reef?

Dr Reichelt : In conversation. I have met the foreign minister and talked about those risks. But that is quite recent and more in the context of World Heritage and what 'endanger' means.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Singh, I think it is important to be able to distinguish between immediate threats and immediate events and the ongoing threats and longer term events. Obviously, in terms of impacts in recent years, we have seen a very significant impact and a very immediate impact on the reef from natural disaster events, from sediment runoff and nutrients. In terms of immediate threats that the government has been confronting and tackling, they of course sit at the forefront of what we have been doing. It obviously requires a global effort in terms of addressing some of the issues around climate change and, with the reef, it becomes more of an adaptation question for the long haul. So I would be cautious about taking a single quote in a newspaper and suggesting that there is some inconsistency between what Dr Reichelt has said and what the foreign minister may or may not have said.

Senator SINGH: Thank you.

Senator CANAVAN: Dr Reichelt, I have a couple of quick questions. I have a report that Deloittes Access Economics prepared for GBRMPA back in March 2013. I apologise that it is a little bit dated, but it came to my attention because of a newspaper article arguing that the contribution of tourism from the Great Barrier Reef is miles ahead of that from fishing and other activities and therefore should be prioritised. There is no doubt that tourism is very important. The figure in the report is quoted as $5.1 billion of value added created from the Great Barrier Reef for tourism. My reading of this report seems to indicate, though, that that $5 billion figure would include all tourism activities that occur in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area, which includes inland areas up to the Great Dividing Range; it includes Emerald and I think Belyando and Collinsville. I do not think too many people go to Collinsville because of the reef. But is that your understanding?

Dr Reichelt : It is. I would like to check before I commit unreservedly. In my understanding, it does include things like coastal accommodation and things that relate to visitors on the land. The perennial problem with any marine costing is how far inland you go, because everything is connected. I am just not sure of how much it includes along the coast.

Senator CANAVAN: But certainly areas like Collinsville are not really connected to the reef; would you agree with that?

Dr Reichelt : Until recently some of the biggest increases in recreational fishing came during the mining boom.

Senator CANAVAN: This is not fishing, though; this is tourism. Rec fishing is separate. This is just the tourism element.

Dr Reichelt : Okay; sorry. From the tourism point of view, I do not associate the two very closely.

Senator CANAVAN: All statistics and all measurementsI am an economist; I certainly do not believe figures very often because I have been involved in having to create them many timesare rubbery, but these in particular seem to be a problem because it is not just the inland areas that are included. My reading of it is that tourism captures not just holiday leisure time but also visiting friends and relatives and business. Is that your understanding in the tourism costings for this report? It is a little bit opaque, I must say; it is hard to work out.

Dr Reichelt : I am sorry; I would need to check that on notice.

Senator CANAVAN: Perhaps you could check that on notice, because it seems that one section of this report calculates tourism and they get to a figure of $6.4 billion, which is then translated into value added to $5.1 billion, and the $6.4 billion would seem to include visiting friends and relatives. I have often done that, as my mum is from Ayr. But I do not go to Ayr to see the reef; I go for my nonna's spaghetti. This figure is being used to say that fishing does not matter because of all this tourism, but a lot of the tourism has nothing to do with coral, if you are visiting friends and family.

Dr Reichelt : I did not read the relatives things as the importance of those individual activities, but in dollar terms

Senator CANAVAN: It is simple.

Dr Reichelt : It is, yes. Can I just say too that we estimate from our environmental management charge figures that just under two million paying customers go out on day trips to the reef per year, but in the outlook report there were estimates of between 13 million and 16 million day visits from people not connected to tourist operations.

Senator CANAVAN: Sure. Anyway, please take that final question on notice. It also includes business travel as well which, I believe, is about the same as the visiting of friends and relatives impact.

Dr Reichelt : Yes. There are also types of fishing. Charter fishing, is that a recreational activity or

Senator CANAVAN: Or is it a tourism activity?

Dr Reichelt : Yes. I will check the details.

Senator CANAVAN: Thank you very much for that. I have just one more line of questioning. I believe that you and AIMS had a synthesis report on dredging science on the reef that came out in about March this year and it was very useful. In that report, though, I struggle to see evidence that major capital dredging has had a deleterious impact on the reef. You summarise. You had two studies in the back of the reportone on Hay Point and one on Gladstone basinwhere there was substantial dredging: 8.6 million cubic metres in the Hay Point example and five million cubic metres in Gladstone. It would appear to me, though, in the actual conclusions of this reportfor example, in the conclusions of the Gladstone reportthat authors concluded that there were no dredging impacts and indeed, in this report, that coral actually improved in the impact sites relative to the reference. So that is slightly improved and not statistically significant. Likewise in Hay Point, less than one per cent of coral mortality occurred at impact sites compared to approved mortality of 20 per cent; there was no significant change in coral cover et cetera. Where is the scientific evidence that capital dredging has caused serious impacts on coral? There just does not seem to be any science in this report.

Dr Reichelt : I will ask Mr Elliot to comment about the dredging.

Mr Elliot : It is important to note that the report itself was done by a group of 19 independent scientists; it was commissioned by us and AIMS but done by independent experts. The report itself quite clearly outlines the types of impacts that are caused by dredging and dredging disposal and it also highlights where there are significant areas of 'unknown'; in particular, some of the longer term chronic impacts of not just the dredging and disposal but the subsequent resuspension over a number of years. They are some of the areas where there is more to learn. I also put that in the context of the outlook report and the strategic assessment, and even the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan scientific consensus statement, which talk about the well-known significant localised impacts of dredging and disposal.

I would put that in a bit more context. One of the things that was painted in that dredge synthesis report was the difference between, if you like, historic capital dredging activities and the ones that were under referral at the time it was written, and I will just give you a few figures. Since 2000so over a 14-year period, between 2000 and nowwe have got 14 years of records of activities that have occurred there. We had two major capital dredging activities: Hay Point in 2009 and Gladstone in 2011-12.

Senator CANAVAN: Can I just clarify regarding Hay Point: it says here 2006, but it was

Mr Elliot : I am sorry; 2006 and 2007, in two tranches. That is my error there. You had approximately 14 million cubic metres of dredging and marine disposal over that 14-year period. By contrastand these figures I am giving you now are from the dredge synthesis report, which is based on forecasts that were under referral under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act at that timeof the 39 million cubic metres of capital dredging proposals, 33 million had associated with them offshore disposal, many of which included potential disposal in the marine park. That was in a seven-year forecast window based on those referrals. That was a significant increase in the number of projects. So part of this is not so much about the observed effects of what had occurred in the past, which was two campaigns over 14 years, but what potentially could be happening in the future because it is demand driven.

Senator CANAVAN: Just to clarify that: how much of that 33 million was Abbot Point?

Mr Elliot : Three million cubic metres.

Senator CANAVAN: The question I have is that, notwithstanding that is a large amount of dredging for sure, presumably we should look at everything on a case-by-case basis and assess the impacts of any particular project. Two projects in the last 14 years do not appear to have had any, and the report by the independent scientists says that available monitoring does not suggest that recent dredging projects on the Great Barrier Reef have directly resulted in significant short-term coral mortality. I do not know what was short term or long term. Hay Point was nearly 10 years ago now and they cannot find anything wrong. Why would we just completely blanket ban capital dredging now when

Senator WATERS: We are not. You are conflating dumping with dredging.

Senator CANAVAN: Well, both.

Senator WATERS: No, you have not banned dredging.

Senator CANAVAN: Hang on. So Hay Point was 8.6 million cubic metres of disposal

CHAIR: Senator Canavan!

Senator CANAVAN: in the reef

CHAIR: Senator Canavan!

Senator CANAVAN: and there is no

CHAIR: Senator Canavan, could you listen, please? It is not appropriate for you to be debating this across

Senator CANAVAN: I did not start it, Chair.

CHAIR: Indeed, and I was about to say to Senator Waters that it is not

Senator CANAVAN: I think the record will show I

CHAIR: Could you direct your questions, please, to the witnesses?

Senator CANAVAN: Yes; thank you, Chair. So there was 8.6 million cubic metres of marine disposal. We cannot see any negative impacts, so why would we ban future proposals outright, including those like Abbot Point, which is almost a third of that amount? I do not quite understand what evidence has been used to come to this conclusion.

Dr Reichelt : Just to correct that, Senator, Abbot Point would have been about one-11th of it, three out of 33.

Senator CANAVAN: I am sorry; Abbot Point was three million

Dr Reichelt : Yes.

Senator CANAVAN: Abbot Point, and Hay Point was 8.6.

Dr Reichelt : Sorry

Senator CANAVAN: I was comparing. So Hay Point was 8.6 million cubic metres disposed of.

Dr Reichelt : Yes.

Senator CANAVAN: The reports that have been done cannot really find any major impactcertainly a lot lower impact than what was proposed and approved at the time under the EPBC Act. Then we have a proposal for three and we are saying they cannot do that anymore; indeed, we are going to ban it in the future. What scientific evidence are we using to inform that decision?

Dr Reichelt : Can I just say about capital dredging that it is debated amongst the scientific world, but what they did not debate was that where you dispose of that material it will cover whatever is there. If you put it on coral, it will kill the coral. If you put it on sand, it will make the sand thicker. So it is a question of the scale of what you do. The way it has been wordedand Mr Elliot has saidis that it has had a significant effect but it is local and, depending on what the receiving area is, it can be a very low effect or it can be very high, depending on where you put it.

With the trend for Abbot Point, it would have been the third in a series of quite steeply declining volumes, and at the same time there were increasing levels of reporting of water quality issues along the coast. The scientific evidence has not been able to tease those apart. You will still have people saying that the dredging did it; the river did it. It is a debated point, which is one reason why we want a proper integrated monitoring reporting program.

The real issue about the dredge reg is the future. It is not just about expansion of existing facilities or changing those channels. It is a case of achieving the outcome of fewer better managed ports. So you use the ones you have. While it is a medium risk, what we would argue is that if it is a medium level risk that you can manage and you can manage it away in the face of cumulating effects from all sources, you would do that. It is prudent to do that.

Senator CANAVAN: I agree with you that it seems strange that we have got this binary choice where certain activities are just banned. I struggle to see any evidence that is currently provided that similar activities that have occurred in the past have had a deleterious impact. This is very serious because I agree with your point that we want to concentrate development in certain port areas, but some of these port areas, like Dalrymple Bay, want to slightly expand their facilities and now they are going to be potentially captured by capital dredging when it may only be increasing one berth. What is going to happen in that situation? Is that going to be capital dredging or is that going to be maintenance? They are just trying to slightly expand their operations.

Dr Reichelt : The intention is to capture capital works and ocean disposal. The environment regulation captures those disposals in the marine park. The Queensland government have signalled their intention for the other. The thing about things like Dalrymple Bay is that they are reasonably close to deep water and they have the capacity to dispose on land. We are not talking about the coast of the United Kingdom.

Senator CANAVAN: We will have to talk to them one time and

Dr Reichelt : We met with them this week

Senator CANAVAN: Great.

Dr Reichelt : We meet with them every four months. Technologies are improving all the timedrying and compaction technology. The actual distance of those berths is a few kilometres offshore. Brisbane airport was 11 million cubic metres, some 10 miles from offshore. They were fortunatethey needed to build a new runway. So the ports themselves accept capital dredging. If they can all be treated fairly and evenly, then that reduces the risk and that is fine. We have an agreement already with the BMAthe BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Allianceand Hay Point to work together to lower their overall dredging requirements over time, including maintenance. The ports themselves are very conscious that they are operating in a World Heritage area and need to take these new steps. The way I would couch the Abbot Point process, preceded by Gladstone and preceded by Hay Point, is that it was the tapering off of an old practice in a marine park. We have a rapidly improving set of data that says movement of sediment is important.

Senator CANAVAN: I thank you for that. This involves thousands of people's jobs and livelihoods; with any decisions we make, the reasonable request is that it be based on scientific evidence and not on politics or emotion.

Senator SINODINOS: When does this ban on disposal of capital dredge spoil come into effect?

Dr Reichelt : It comes into effect a few days after the executive council decision.

Senator SINODINOS: So it has not happened yet?

Dr Reichelt : No; it is with the minister on its way through that process.

Dr de Brouwer : It is imminent.

Senator SINODINOS: It is imminent; okay. Do you have an estimate of the impact of this ban? Prospectively what are you averting, do you think, in broad terms?

Dr Reichelt : This ban averts up to 29 millionit is probably not quite the 33 million that Mr Elliot said. But what it will prevent is the future option for port development to include that disposal. It turns off what we regard as a significant but local risk over a number of sites on the Barrier Reef and it lowers the overall pressure on the coastal areas in the marine park.

Senator SINODINOS: Who is addressing the issue of nutrient runoff?

Dr Reichelt : Nutrient runoff is being addressed through quite significant, very big Commonwealth and also state programsfunded often from Landcare, principally. The department has carriage of that. The nutrient sources varymainly excess use of fertiliser. I say 'excess' because if it was not excess the plant would have used it. It has been wastedput on the ground and flushed to sea.

Senator SINODINOS: So are we dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause? How do we encourage more efficient use of fertiliser?

Dr Reichelt : I might let my colleagues from the department answer that.

Mr Thompson : It is a good question. There has been a series of investments to understand the water quality problem and to do some water quality planning over a number of years, including under the previous government. In the context of the current investments with Reef Trust, we are focussing on a couple of things. The three target areas in the broad for runoff are around nitrogeninorganic nitrogensediment, which is often the result of gully erosion and grazing activity, and pesticides. So they are the three areas that are targeted.

Senator SINODINOS: So are you looking to modify farm practices, basically?

Mr Thompson : Yes, and we are doing that through a number of ways. We work in partnership with the farming sector, particularly the grazing industry and the sugarcane industry, to improve their practices. The Queensland government has had a key role and will continue to have a key role in working with those sectors to move towards best management practice in those sectors which changes their practices on the ground. Reef Trust is also funding some gully erosion work in the Burdekin and Fitzroyand again, they are working with the grazing industry to improve gully practices and restoration of gullies to reduce sediment runoff. You might have heard me refer to the wet tropics reverse tender that we are operating. It has been designed to elicit bids from sugarcane farmers in the wet tropics to see what it will be worth to them to improve their practices on-farm to reduce nitrogen use and also, importantly, nitrogen runoff, in fertiliser. So that is working its way through as well.

Senator SINODINOS: Thank you.

Senator Birmingham: There is some good data indicating that some of the pollutant loads entering the reef are in decline as a result of the various initiatives that Mr Thomson has spoken ofa 10 per cent reduction in dissolved inorganic nitrogen; a 28 per cent reduction in pesticides and an 11 per cent reduction in sediments. The types of programs and initiatives that, to be fair, have been backed in various degrees by successive governments at state and federal level are changing those behaviours on-farm as well as changing overall land management practices to help address that important issue.

Senator SINODINOS: Thank you.

CHAIR: We might break for lunch, gentlemen.

Proceedings suspended from 13 : 06 to 14 : 01

CHAIR: Okay—all good? Dr Kennedy, I believe you wish to correct the record?

Dr Kennedy : In fact, there are two matters. Firstly, Senator Urquhart sought a list of then programs administered by the department. I have that list here, which I will table now.

The second matter is that there was a little confusion this morning in response to a question from Senator Waters about the register of environmental organisations and who instigated the House of Representatives inquiry. There was some confusion between myself and Ms Jensen. I have two letters that I would like to table. The inquiry was instigated by Mr Alex Hawke, who is the chair of the House standing committee.

CHAIR: I am aware of that.

Dr Kennedy : We will table the letter that Mr Hawke wrote to the minister. In accordance with standing order 215(b) of the House of Representatives, Minister Hunt wrote back requesting that the inquiry take place. I will table that letter as well. The confusion between myself and Ms Jensen was around who instigated the inquiry. I had understood that Mr Hawke had, and Ms Jensen explained that the minister had written requesting it. We just wanted to clarify that the course of events was that Mr Hawke wrote to Minister Hunt and then Minister Hunt wrote back, which is the usual practice apparently for the reference of an inquiry in the House.

Senator WATERS: Is that right? So, it is usual for a minister to sanction the inquiry?

Dr Kennedy : Yes. I am not an expert on standing orders 215(b), but as it has been explained to me that is the way it works. I will table both of those letters and also the list of programs.

CHAIR: We will now resume with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Senator WATERS: I would like to start by going over some of the areas that other senators touched on, but I have some follow-up questions for clarification. Last budget you lost your $2.8 million over four years, which was a projected staffing reduction. I think you ended up losing five of your most senior staff. Can you confirm for me whether you have lost any more since then, either actively by their choice or yours? Also, one of you said you were not anticipating there being any further staff losses. I am just trying to understand how that is possible with the funding cuts.

Mr Barrett : I can confirm there were 17 voluntary redundancies that we talked about at previous estimates hearings. That has taken its course from April last year through to March this year. They are the only planned staffing reductions. When we went through that voluntary redundancy process we went through a reorganisation, re-established what the priorities were for the organisation and restructured accordingly to where we needed people. That structure is now in place going forward for the next three or four years.

Senator WATERS: Are you saying you do not anticipate any further staff reductions?

Mr Barrett : Correct.

Senator WATERS: Despite the fact that the funding is continuing to reduce?

Mr Barrett : We talked about the funding reductions between 2014-15 and 2015-16. The major areas of reductions do not affect current staffing arrangements. For example, the crown-of-thorns starfish funding is not in our budget for next year, but there has been a subsequent announcement by the minister. That does not affect the staffing figures.

Senator WATERS: Again, back to something that Dr Reichelt said earlier, Senator Singh was asking you about the five new aspects of work that you will do as a result of your reef plan commitments. You said that you will move to those areas and drop away from others, but you did not get the opportunity to clarify which of those other areas you are going to drop away from in order to refocus your work on those five reef plan priorities.

Dr Reichelt : It is done within sections and within the priorities of internal sections. If a tourism group or a biodiversity group had been working on, say, the impacts of netting on turtles or something like that and we want them to take that expertise and do reef recovery plans. They finished the biodiversity conversation strategy a year or two ago, and those people have already begun working on some of these new things. Nearly everything we do has a finite life to it. The Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, with its vulnerability assessments, was a substantial piece of work. It took about four years. That was completed recently and that released those staff to take up other things.

Senator WATERS: Pardon me for interrupting. I am just conscious of time and I have a lot of things that I would like to ask you. Was anything slated to continue that you are now discontinuing early or are they all just effectively programs that had a shelf life that have reached their natural end?

Dr Reichelt : I will just check with my colleagues. I was just checking that I was not misleading you. We planned these things to evolve. With the staff reductions, probably the bigger thing is that we will plan fewer things as opposed to stopping some vital function. Or to make it doable we will find ways to deliver a policy development area by building more partnerships as opposed to assigning more staff internally to it. The cumulative impact study assessments, for instance, has already had some considerable pro bono help from CSIRO.

Senator WATERS: I was going to come to that. So, it is just that you will plan fewer things? Is there anything that you had already planned that you are not going to be able to proceed with given your refocus on the Reef 2050 activities?

Dr Reichelt : Not that I can recall here. This review of our plans has been happening now for three or four years.

Senator WATERS: So, moving quickly to staffing, how many of your staff are involved in on-ground compliance and enforcement and how many are doing assessments and approvals as at today or as close to today as possible compared with September 2013?

Mr Elliot : I cannot guarantee I will be 100 per cent accurate with these figures, but our field management compliance unit has approximately 22 or 23 staff. They are employees of GBRMPA whose main focus is compliance and, in particular, zoning plan compliance. That field management program also funds Queensland staff and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services, some of whom do compliance work, but I would not be able to give you a figure for that. Our environmental assessment and protection section has approximately 21 staff in it and approximately half of those are dedicated to, if you like, the permit assessment process. Then between the compliance work for the environmental management charge and the post-permits compliance that would be the other half of those staff.

Senator WATERS: I am sorry, what was that last bit?

Mr Elliot : The post-permits compliance—once you issue a permit the compliance work on that permit. Between the EMC and the post-permits compliance you have probably got six staff dedicated to that at the moment.

Senator WATERS: How does that compare with previous years?

Mr Elliot : That is more staff on post-permits compliance than in previous years, and it is an area that we are looking to strengthen over the next few years.

Senator WATERS: How many more given that you only have six?

Mr Elliot : It will probably only change in terms of staff allocation by one or two. It is in the systems that we are developing to assist them.

Senator WATERS: It is still pretty low, but it is going up.

Dr Reichelt : I do not have the numbers here, but over the next two years we have been allocated $1.2 million under the Turtle and Dugong Protection Plan for an Indigenous ranger compliance enhancement project.

Senator WATERS: I do have some questions on that. Firstly, how many of the rangers and other compliance staff are doing the day-to-day on-water compliance and management activities?

Mr Elliot : Did you ask how many of the field compliance staff are actively out in the field?

Senator WATERS: Yes.

Mr Elliot : That would be at least three-quarters of them, so you are probably talking about 15 or 16 whose main job is to be out in the field.

Senator WATERS: How many of those are Indigenous rangers?

Dr Reichelt : I do not have the exact figure. If I could give that to you on notice? I just need to check that.

Senator WATERS: Is that the same pool of folk from whence the turtle and dugong Indigenous rangers will be sourced or is that a separate category?

Dr Reichelt : We have Indigenous people employed within the group as well as the additional funding program. I would need to check the number of Indigenous people doing that part.

Senator WATERS: For both of those aspects of their role.

Dr Reichelt : Yes.

Senator WATERS: I would like to go to the No. 1 threat to the reef. Obviously the various reports, the reef plan itself and you here today have repeated that this is climate change. I would like to read a quote from an article by Professor Terry Hughes, who I am sure you know is one of the world's foremost coral reef experts. He states:

The government wants to have coal mines operating in six years time and still hopes to have a healthy reef. The science says otherwise. Either we plan to adequately protect the reef and transition away from fossil fuels or we abandon the reef and develop the world's largest thermal coal mines. We can't possibly do both.

Can you tell me what the reef plan says about the expansion of thermal coal mining?

Dr Reichelt : I doubt it says anything about that. My colleagues can correct me if I am wrong.

Senator WATERS: That is my understanding. So, the reef plan is, therefore, premised on an expansion of coal and gas.

Senator Birmingham: I do not know that one follows from the other, but we can clarify that.

Dr de Brouwer : The reef plan does not go through fossil fuels mining. What it does talk about, though, is the government's policies and international action to reduce emissions, which may also be emissions from the use of fossil fuels, which can occur in a variety of ways. It does talk about techniques and ways to reduce emissions, which is government policy.

Senator WATERS: Do you think the Reef 2050 Plan has any chance of saving the reef if the Galilee Basin coal is burned?

Dr Reichelt : Going back to Professor Hughes's comments, I will say we rely heavily on Professor Hughes's work on resilience of the reef, and his whole group. The question comes down, for the management of the Barrier Reef, to how you weave in the global issue of climate change and fossil fuel burning. Dr Vertessy, this morning, made it clear that the principal source of C02 as a greenhouse gas is from fossil fuel. But in terms of the science of the marine park management and managing for resilience, a direct link between a particular coal field and the global atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gas is something that is outside the scope of this plan. It will probably belong—

Senator WATERS: Hence my question: how is the reef plan going to save the reef if it does not do anything to stop the Galilee Basin being opened up?

Senator Birmingham: Obviously Dr Reichelt and officials talk about the content of the reef plan. There is an underlying premise of your question that seems to suggest that one particular source of fossil fuels is the cause of future climate change challenges when, of course, there is a very strong and robust market in the provision of fossil fuels around the world from different locations. One mine, if it is not in operation, it is likely to see—

Senator WATERS: It is not one.

Senator Birmingham: Multiple mines, if they are not in operation, are still likely to see fossil fuels provided from the marketplace elsewhere around the world. I know that you understand the science of climate change to a greater extent than the approach of that question. I know that you understand that it is about the totality of global emissions and not about the operation of an individual mine or a region comprising a series of mines.

Senator WATERS: Thank you for your explanation. I am across all of those issues. I have another quote here from another scientist that I will go to in a minute. I am simply putting to GBRMPA that when you have the world's foremost coral reef scientists saying that the reef plan is effectively not going to work if you ignore Galilee Basin coal mines, how is it that GBRMPA and the government can hold out the Reef 2050 Plan as this great solution to save the reef?

Dr Reichelt : It has to be answered in the two parts that you were discussing a second ago. There are several pages in the plan. It is not that it does not discuss it, but it separates it as a problem for coral reefs worldwide and not just the Great Barrier Reef. It talks in here about things that are outside the scope of the Marine Park Authority but in relation to emissions—

Senator WATERS: It does not mention the Galilee Basin mines, does it?

Dr Reichelt : I do not believe so. It is talking about the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and that separation. The strategy for managing for resilience in the reef has had a lot of input from the same professor, who has written some great papers on it.

Senator WATERS: The government still has not stopped opening up new coal mines.

Dr Reichelt : The rational response for us locally is to address the other major locally manageable risks to build the resilience of this coral reef system. Worldwide coral reefs are vulnerable. That involves cleaning up water quality, improving its ability to bounce back from things like storms, starfish and other effects.

As to the linkage of the mine and so on, there are other quotes in recent times from Professor Hughes. As of this morning he was quoted as saying that the government has made significant progress with this reef plan. I think it is probably joining two parts of the debate that to me are not logically connected.

Senator WATERS: If the Galilee Basin coal is burnt it would increase the global thermal coal trade by about 30 per cent.

Senator Birmingham: Not necessarily.

Senator WATERS: Excuse me, Minister. Do not interrupt me. I am asking the officials a question. You can interrupt when I have finished.

CHAIR: Excuse me. One moment, Senator Waters. I think it might be appropriate if we address people with a little bit more civility in this place.

Senator WATERS: Agreed. I will not interrupt you if you do not interrupt me.

CHAIR: Yes, but if he does interrupt you, just the way you interrupted him, I do not expect you to respond the way you just did. It is rude.

Senator WATERS: Let us agree not to interrupt each other, then. If I could continue, Dr Reichelt. How does increasing the global thermal coal trade by 30 per cent off the back of the Galilee Basin square with the reef plan saving the reef?

Senator Birmingham: I take issue with the premise of your question. It ignores the fact that there is a global trade in fossil fuels, and it seems to work on an assumption that the Galilee Basin is the sole potential source of any future burning of coal and generation of emissions. That is transparently not the case. If you want to ask Dr Reichelt questions about the projections around the future of the reef based on certain climate change outcomes, that is fine—based on certain global actions in terms of the use of fossil fuels, fine. But to bring it down as you do to the specific geographical area as the source of those emissions betrays what I know you know to be a global problem. It is taking your campaign against coal mining in one location and trying to make it the cause of climate change when I know that you know much better than that.

Senator WATERS: I am sorry, but you cannot deny it would increase the thermal coal trade by 30 per cent and hence I feel perfectly comfortable in asking these questions and will continue to do so if you will let me finish.

Senator Birmingham: If it is not bought and burnt from the Galilee Basin it may well be bought and burnt from some other location in the world. That is not the sole source of coal in the world.

Senator WATERS: Given that the Galilee Basin is in Queensland, which is where I am from and where the authority is from, it is much closer to the reef.

Senator Birmingham: As far as I am aware, in terms of the climate change projections, it does not much matter where the coal has come from.

Senator WATERS: Perhaps you might like to have a conversation with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister to just that effect. Dr Reichelt, given the 30 per cent increase in thermal coal export trade should the Galilee Basin mines be opened up and proceed as this government is keen for them to do, what effect will that have on climate change and hence on the reef?

Dr Reichelt : I am not aware of any modelling of that direct effect on the global concentrations. It is such a complex question to funnel that into the global picture. It is really outside my expertise and that of my agency to draw that link. Where we have expertise is in the atmospheric effects on the system globally and then translated to the reef specifically. It is not a question I can easily answer, because I am not an expert in that.

Senator WATERS: Given that your agency has identified climate change as the biggest threat to the reef, as have many other scientists, is it not something that the agency might start to look at?

Dr Reichelt : We have made it very clear what the risks for the reef are and the ways that it can play out. It is a much longer story than the two factors I gave you this morning. It is not something where we are authorised, where we have jurisdiction and we have capability to do more than analyse the impacts on the system. We are charged with protection and making it as publicly available as possible. You can appreciate the outlook report is very direct in both 2009 and 2014. The language is quite strong. Climate change and rising greenhouse gases are the single biggest long-term risks to the reef. Our response to it should be, on the one hand, encourage action on a global scale and, on the other hand, build the resilience of that system to enable it to withstand the pressures in the face of climate change. That is the context that we operate in.

Senator WATERS: Have you brief the Prime Minister on the effects of climate change on the reef, both current and projected?

Dr Reichelt : Not to my knowledge directly. I am sure the Prime Minister is well briefed. Our information is widely publicly available.

Senator WATERS: So, you have not been asked to nor have your proffered such a briefing?

Dr Reichelt : Not directly.

Senator Birmingham: As I said earlier when somebody asked a similar question of the Bureau of Meteorology, the department, when they provide advice and information for all manner of decisions to be taken, takes of course expert information from agencies like the Bureau of Meteorology, GBRMPA and consolidate that in the information provided to ministers and the government generally. That is the standard operating procedure.

Senator WATERS: So, you have been able to directly communicate your expertise filtered through the department?

Dr Reichelt : I did have a conversation on the launch day and the opening explanation from the Prime Minister and our Minister for the Environment was to acknowledge the risks of climate change in the launch of this plan. There are two pages of that acknowledgement in the plan itself as well. Our information is widely publicly available. It is very clear.

Senator WATERS: My concern is whether it is being read by the relevant people. I would like to go to funding that was mentioned earlier—the accumulated figure of $2 billion over 10 years which, as we started to gather, is indeed a cumulative figure of funding for Marine Safety Queensland, AIMS, Queensland Premier and Cabinet, Queensland Department of Fisheries research funding, the federal Department of Environment, GBRMPA and quite a handful of others. Obviously that is a figure that is incredibly expansive.

Senator Birmingham: As our efforts are to work to preserve the reef, I am pleased you acknowledge they are expansive efforts.

Senator WATERS: I am certainly not acknowledging that. I would like to know how much of that funding is new since 2013. Maybe Mr Thompson could assist with that if Dr Reichelt does not have that information to hand.

Mr Thompson : Not off the top of my head. I can take that on notice and come back tomorrow.

Senator WATERS: I will pursue that, because it does seem a little disingenuous. Of that $2 billion over the next 10 years about $500 million is to be spent on marine safety, and clearly that is warranted, but it is not directed at water quality and yet the minister has been marketing that money as first and foremost about improving water quality. Do either Dr Reichelt or Mr Thompson know how much of that $2 billion is, in fact, going to water quality?

Senator Birmingham: Marine safety—if you look at it for example in relation to AMSA, the focus is then described as 'promoting marine safety and protection of the marine environment, preventing/combating ship sourced pollution of the marine environment, providing infrastructure support, safety and navigation in Australian waters and providing a national search and rescue service for the maritime and aviation services.' There is a range of actions in there, ship sourced pollution being a notable one just to pick out of the list relatively quickly a point that highlights that even in that space there are very clearly measures that relate not just to the effective management of the reef but also to improving environmental outcomes for the reef.

Senator WATERS: Hence my question to get some specificity on how much is dedicated to water quality specifically.

Mr Thompson : I think that would be difficult for us to determine with any great accuracy, because a number of the activities identified there would cross into water quality. Some of the research activities and education activities would cross into water quality as well. There are others, for example, the Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, which does water quality report card modelling. That is clearly about water quality. But some of the others would have elements addressing water quality.

Senator WATERS: So, you are not too sure? Should I come back to that or can you take that on notice?

Mr Thompson : I can seek to get a more definitive breakdown, but I am managing expectations about how well we will be able to do that.

Senator WATERS: All right. I will not hold my breath, but I appreciate your investigating. One of UNESCO's central requests was about cumulative impacts. You mentioned earlier, Dr Reichelt, that one of the goals of the plan is to develop guidelines for assessing cumulative impacts on matters of national environmental significance. Given that it took two years to do Reef 2050, why is there only a commitment to develop guidelines on cumulative impact assessment? Why are we not further advanced and what is the timeframe to get the cumulative impact guidelines finished and operational?

Dr Reichelt : The idea for cumulative impact analysis globally itself is not new. Canada and others have done some. In our environmental approvals process our view was that it was underweighted and that we needed to have explicit policies. That was done in the strategic assessment. That piece of work included quite a lot of data gathering, synthesis and communication, and we are now moving into an implementation phrase. There simply were not time and resources to develop a new policy. We were also asked by the partnership group that when we did it could we do it in a publicly transparent way—make drafts visible. I think it will take one or two years possibly.

Senator WATERS: Another one or two years?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, I would think so. This development is not just for the authority. We would like it to be nationally adopted with national and state laws. We would want all of those jurisdictions and ours to work together on it. It is a new area on the scale of the Great Barrier Reef region. I think we need to do it carefully and thoroughly. What it actually addresses is the shifting baseline problem that you would be aware of—the fact that small incremental changes add up over time. That is a key thing. For me, after the information/monitoring, that would be the next most significant development in that plan. We want to take the time to do it properly.

Senator WATERS: I would be pleased if there are not too many other development applications that are proceeding that will significantly damage the reef in two years' time, but it does seem like the horse has bolted. I am wondering whether, if more staff were able to be dedicated to that particular guideline development, it could be expedited.

Dr Reichelt : We would certainly look at it. Given what I have said, it will be trading off in monitoring work. I think we will look at that, because we are still working out the exact distribution of resources over the coming 12 months. Our annual operating plan is due out in the next four to five weeks. We will look at that.

There was something else. With the importance of that—in a sense we are already moving down that road in some applications where what we have done is develop water quality guidelines for the Barrier Reef for what is healthy water along our coast, and what should it be. That is one area of thresholds and standards that is better advanced. In consideration of some developments in recent times we have actually applied that where we consider that this net benefit thinking is also part of it. We have, in consideration of a particular aquaculture venture, thought about it being not just the quality of water coming out of an aquaculture facility, it is what the water going in looks like. In other words, it is a kind of cumulative effect analysis that we are already doing.

Senator WATERS: But the guidelines are still two years away?

Dr Reichelt : The nationally accepted ones that would then inform other decision makers. Within the authority we have begun thinking about it already. What is in this plan is a more considered, visible and publicly debated set of policies. Why it is sensitive is that it has the effect of a proponent coming along seeking to do something that someone earlier was approved and found to have an acceptable impact being refused a permit for the same thing because of the accumulating changes.

Senator WATERS: Which is entirely appropriate.

Dr Reichelt : Yes. We think that is the only way to manage the recovery of the reef.

Senator WATERS: I wish you good speed on that one. In the 2012 recommendations of the World Heritage Committee they asked for spatial policies that will identify appropriate and limited locations and standards for coastal development and also identify areas that should not be subject to development. That was in the context of when they were asking for a long-term comprehensive plan for the reef. I read that as effectively wanting no-go zones or a map, if you like. There is not such a map or designated no-go zones in the Reef 2050 Plan and apart from some changes that the state government has made I am not aware that the federal government has actively ruled out anywhere in the reef catchment for development. How is the government holding out that they are meeting that recommendation?

Dr Reichelt : In the context of the long-term plan and the response of the World Heritage Committee, the issue of where development should and should not occur was explicitly mentioned. Inside the reef region, the zoning plan is quite clear on the relative effects of human activity in the different zones. It is not just about fishing. In the water, it is clearer. On the land, it would be something that I would direct to the Environmental Assessment Compliance Division, EACD, if I have the division right?

Mr Thompson : Yes.

Dr Reichelt : It would be where the department operates in facilitating decisions under the EPBC in conjunction with Queensland approvals, I would think, that that relates to.

Mr Thompson : Certainly, as you said, in terms of that coastal planning, that is a matter which is for the Queensland government to determine. As I understand it, the new Queensland government has identified that it will be re-entering a coastal management legislative regime for the state there. As I understand it, that request in part was met by the strategic assessment on the land side, which the Queensland government undertook and identified.

Senator WATERS: How was it met, though?

Mr Thompson : It was not spatial. That is true. It did not go to zones and was not spatially based.

Senator WATERS: How was it met, then?

Mr Thompson : It did go to the processes by which the Queensland government made decisions about developments on the coastal zone. That is my understanding.

Senator WATERS: I have a few more questions. I will move on quickly.

CHAIR: It has already gone five minutes past. Are you prepared to give up time on something else?

Senator WATERS: Yes, I am. I will move on quickly. I have some questions about the proposed dumping restrictions, which obviously have not come into force yet. I am not sure whether you can answer me or not, but I am interested in how they will apply to projects that are already approved—for example, Gladstone and Townsville. Is that something that I should take up with you or should I take that up elsewhere in the department?

Dr Reichelt : Both of those would be outside the marine park.

Mr Elliot : Yes. It will apply to requesting approvals for disposal within the marine park. There is only such approval, which is Abbot Point. The Gladstone and Townsville approvals are outside the marine park.

Dr Reichelt : So that would be something that—

Senator WATERS: On the lobbying trips, I understand that GBRMPA staff have gone along with various ministerial and departmental representatives to do their reef lobbying. Have any of the GBRMPA officers been allowed to speak with World Heritage country/nations without the minister or the department present?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, we have. I am just looking for the exact figures here. I have met with my counterparts in 11 member countries. I was on my own. I had no colleagues with me other than a Foreign Affairs person who helped facilitate the travel and took notes at the meeting.

Senator WATERS: You were meeting with whom?

Dr Reichelt : The natural expert advisers to the governments who were taking an interest in understanding the Great Barrier Reef and committee members.

Senator WATERS: Can you provide a bit more detail on notice about that? In those meetings, did you bring to the attention of the folk with whom you were conversing that statement in the outlook report which says that the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is poor, has worsened since 2009 and is expected to further deteriorate in the future?

Dr Reichelt : Yes. Some of the meetings were short, an hour or so. In some cases the longest was nine hours, where I was quizzed in great detail about that report.

Senator WATERS: You drew that statement to their attention in every meeting?

Dr Reichelt : Yes, very much so. I was able to explain that it operates at different scales. It is the climate change effects, it is the long run changes in catchments, it is the fact that at the time that report was written there were five new ports proposed, and expansions. It was actually written in advance of the changes that have occurred in the past 12 months in ports policies. I was given unfettered access to those, to the extent that they wanted to meet with me.

Senator WATERS: I will put some other questions about shark finning and drumlines on notice. Just quickly, with respect to the Shen Neng clean-up, it has been five years now since the Shen Neng ran into Douglas Shoal, obviously doing huge damage. My understanding is that tributyltin, the TBT anti-fouling paint, is still in situ. Why has no clean-up effort been started to remove that TBT yet?

Dr Reichelt : We have documented this several times now, and confirm what you say. The paint is still there in concentrated depressions in the sea floor. It is a toxic capped TBT paint. We are in the middle of a legal action against the ship owner, the Shenzhen Energy Company. We are seeking for them to meet the costs of the clean-up. It is our view, as briefed to the minister, and it is the minister's view that it should be done as soon as we possibly can. It is urgent. It is preventing the natural recovery processes in that 50-plus hectares of sea floor.

Senator WATERS: Why is GBRMPA not cleaning that up and then seeking reimbursement from the company? Why are you letting it sit there?

Dr Reichelt : It is a resourcing issue. It would be a substantial cost, beyond the capacity of our budget.

Senator WATERS: In what order?

Dr Reichelt : It would exceed $50 million.

Senator WATERS: Have you sought to have additional support from government to clean up that toxic mess?

Dr Reichelt : The litigation that is underway comes under the head of nationally significant with Attorney-General's. It remains our best avenue to achieve those funds. It is an issue for the authority. We have repeatedly made it clear through the courts to the company and the insurers, Protection and Indemnity Club, London, of our wish. There is an insurance system for shipping accidents, and so we are seeking that pathway as well.

Senator WATERS: Thank you very much.

CHAIR: I thank officers of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. I call to the table the Director of National Parks.