The reef decision requires Australia to deliver “effective and sustained protection” of the reef from threats including industrialisation and pollution. Australia is required to provide a first report on progress in just 18 months.
The committee welcomed Australia’s “commitment to establish a permanent ban on dumping of dredged material from all capital dredging projects within the property” and to restrict new megaport expansions in and near the reef.
Following this decision, WWF said it expects a full ban on dumping in the reef’s World Heritage waters to come into force within months.
“Australia has promised to prioritise the health of the reef over damaging activities like dumping dredge spoil. UNESCO will be watching to ensure that the condition of the reef improves in coming years, as will the 550,000 WWF campaign supporters and millions of people worldwide who are deeply concerned and want to see a stop to industrial destruction of the Great Barrier Reef," said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International.
In its final reef decision, the UNESCO committee expressed continued concern that habitats and wildlife populations have declined, and that the reef’s overall outlook is poor. The committee emphasised that major long-term threats such as water pollution and climate change remain and require action.
Australia is requested to “rigorously implement all of its commitments… in order to halt the current documented declines,” the committee decision says. The country must report back to UNESCO on its progress by December of next year and again three years later in order to demonstrate “effective and sustained protection” of the reef.
“Water pollution and climate change remain major threats to the health of the Great Barrier Reef, and WWF will work tirelessly to ensure that action is taken to preserve and repair this remarkable marine ecosystem,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman.
“Today’s World Heritage decision will keep the pressure on Australia to turn promises into real action and results. We must bring back the corals, the turtles, the dugongs - the natural wonders of the reef.”