Great Barrier Reef
FILE PHOTO - Oliver Lanyon, Senior Ranger in the Great Barrier Reef region for the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, takes photographs and notes during an inspection of the reef's condition in an area called the 'Coral Gardens' located at Lady Elliot Island and 80 kilometers north-east from the town of Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia, June 11, 2015. Reuters/David Gray/File photo

The Turnbull government has pledged $500 million in the May budget for the rehabilitation of the Great Barrier Reef. The record investment also aims to protect the 64,000 jobs dependent on the World Heritage-listed site.

The world’s largest coral reef system has lost 30 percent of its coral due to bleaching, which is blamed on climate change and pollution. The half a billion dollars fund will protect the Reef’s health and preserve the 64,000 jobs reliant on it. The Reef provides $6.4 billion a year to the Queensland and Australian economies.

The Turnbull government will partner with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation with a $444 million agreement to tackle crown-of-thorns starfish, reduce pollution into the Reef, and mitigate the impacts of climate change. An additional $56 million will be used to expand environmental management and compliance operations on the Reef and to support additional investment.

The $444 million is broken down as follows:

  • $201 million to improve water quality with changed farming practices
  • $100 million to harness the best science to implement reef restoration, as well as to fund science supporting Reef resilience and adaptation
  • $58 million to expand the fight against the coral-eating crown-of-thorn starfish
  • $45 million to support other work, particularly those increasing community engagement
  • $40 million to enhance Reef health monitoring and reporting to trac

“We are looking at a whole range of new initiatives, taking the best advice of the experts, working closely with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to ensure that the reef has its best chance into the future,” Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said on Sunday in Cairns.

The funding was welcome, Australian Marine Conservation Society spokeswoman Imogen Zethoven said. However, it would be pointless if carbon pollution was not reduced and if the contentious Adani coal mine was allowed to go ahead.

“Australia must make the transition from burning polluting coal to a 100 percent renewable powered future if we are to protect the future or the reef,” she said in a statement (via 9News).

Bill McKebben, the founder of the environment-focused organisation, agreed about Adani. “To simultaneously promote the world’s biggest coal mine while pretending to care about the world’s largest reef is an acrobatic feat only the most cynical politicians would attempt,” he said.

Australian Labor Party’s federal president Mark Butler believed that the record funding would be wasted if the government continued to support climate change deniers. “You can’t be serious about saving the reef without a serious plant to tackle climate change,” he said. “As long as Malcolm Turnbull continues to pander to the climate change deniers of his party room, the Great Barrier Reef will continue to suffer.”