Heart Reef, located in Hardy Reef. Photo: Jumbo Aerial Photography. © Commonwealth of Australia (GBRMPA)
On 28 January 2022, the Australian Government announced an additional $1 billion investment to substantially increase efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
For further information on this record new investment in the health of the Reef please visit - Billion Dollar Reef Protection Package.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the globe’s most unique and biologically diverse ecosystems. Covering an area of 348,000 square kilometres, it is the world's most extensive coral reef system and is so large it can be seen from space.
The incredible maze of coral reefs, continental islands, coral cays and mangrove islands is visited by almost 1.9 million people every year. Another one million people are lucky enough to live in the region.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the natural wonders of the world and was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981 for its unique natural attributes and enormous scientific and environmental importance.
World Heritage Committee
World Heritage Committee decision on the Great Barrier Reef
On 24 July 2021 the World Heritage Committee rejected a proposed Immediate In Danger listing for the Great Barrier Reef.
Australia welcomed the support of an overwhelming majority of nations at the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee which has backed Australia’s concerns over the UNESCO assessment process for the Great Barrier Reef. Australia’s concern was always process focussed, in that UNESCO had sought an immediate ‘In Danger Listing’ without appropriate consultation, without a site visit and without all the latest information.
The World Heritage Committee’s endorsement of Australia’s position gives reef managers, marine scientists and land managers the ability to demonstrate the success of the outstanding work that is taking place across the Reef.
Crucially, this decision will now allow the World Heritage Committee to develop a framework that ensures all properties, including the 83 identified through the World Heritage process as being at risk from climate change, to be treated in the same way.
Australia will continue to focus on delivering an unprecedented level of investment towards protection of the Reef—$4 billion through the Reef 2050 Plan.
On 1 February 2022, Australia submitted a detailed State Party Report on the State of Conservation of the Great Barrier Reef. The Report responds to the 2021 World Heritage Committee Decision and provides a comprehensive overview of new information relating to the health and resilience of the Reef, new investments, and actions and measures taken since the release of the Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2019.
The World Heritage Committee decision means that UNESCO will take the time to see the Reef first-hand and review the outstanding work of reef communities, reef managers, marine scientists and Traditional Owners in protecting the best managed reef in the world before considering any future recommendation. On 26 August 2021 Minister Ley wrote to UNESCO and the IUCN inviting them to visit the Reef.
- Letter inviting UNESCO and IUCN to visit the Reef – 26 August 2021 (PDF - 18 KB)
- Letter inviting UNESCO and IUCN to visit the Reef – 26 August 2021 (DOCX - 89 KB)
This will give members of the World Heritage Centre and International Union for Conservation of Nature an opportunity to experience the wonder of the Reef first-hand, and to better understand the work underway through Australia’s protection and conservation programs, as part of the Reef 2050 Plan.
Australia recognises that climate change is the most serious threat to the health of coral reefs worldwide, including the Great Barrier Reef, and threatens many World Heritage sites. Australia’s strategy for improving the long-term outlook for the Great Barrier Reef in the face of global climate change is focused on three key areas:
- direct action to reduce pressures by improving water quality and tackling coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish
- supporting adaptation in the face of a changing climate through our world-leading Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program; and
- playing our part by contributing to global emissions reduction through the Paris Agreement
For more than 40 years Australia has ensured the protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef. We have accelerated our investments in management of the Reef to improve water quality and enhance the science that underpins our decisions. We will continue our focus on protection and conservation through delivery of the Reef 2050 Plan.
About the World Heritage Committee
The World Heritage Committee regularly reviews the state of conservation of all properties inscribed on the World Heritage List.
The World Heritage Committee has considered the state of conservation of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area since 2011.
In its decisions, the Committee has requested that the Australian Government undertake a range of measures to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value of the Great Barrier Reef is not compromised.
State Party reports
Australia has been working hard to address the issues raised by the Committee. It has submitted detailed State Party reports to the Committee since 2012.
The Australian Government does not consider that the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area warrants inclusion on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
This is because the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of this massive reef system remain largely intact. Australia is taking corrective action and has demonstrated substantial progress and commitment in responding to the requests of the World Heritage Committee and to the recommendations of the monitoring mission which visited the property in 2012.