Budget Review 2022–23 Index
David and Rebecca Bathgate
The largest of the Australian Government’s environment
measures described in the 2022–23
Budget is a $1 billion investment over nine years to 2029–30 in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). This
by the Prime Minister, the Minister for the Environment, and Special Envoy for
the Great Barrier Reef on 28 January 2022 and furthers the Government’s
overarching management strategy for the GBR. This is set out in the Reef
2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, released in 2015 and updated
The new $1 billion funding package, much of which has
already been provided for by the Government, is in addition
billion in Government funding for the GBR committed for the 10 years from 2014–15 to 2023–24 as detailed in the updated
Reef 2050 Plan 2021–25 (Appendix D, p. 64). The $1 billion package increases
gradually over the first 3 years (Table 1), which appears to account for
existing commitments for these years under the current funding arrangements.
Its overall impact will be to extend the GBR funding stream to 2029–30.
Table 1 Breakdown of
funding by financial year of the Government’s '$1 billion Great Barrier Reef
package’ (2021–22 to 2029–30)
Source: Provided in a written answer to Questions on Notice, Senate Environment and Communications Legislation
Committee, Answers to Questions on Notice, Agriculture, Water and the
Environment Portfolio, Additional Estimates 2021–22, 22 February 2022, Question No. 67.
A total of $421.5 million of the $1 billion is committed
over the forward estimates period to 2025–26, with the remaining $578.4 million
allocated to the 4 years from 2026–27 to 2025–26 (Question
No. 67). The Department of Agriculture,
Water and the Environment (DAWE) Budget
2022–23 Portfolio Budget Statements, Table 2.3 also shows a total of
$30 million over the period 2021–2023
going to the Reef Trust Special Account for administered expenses relating to
the Reef 2050 Plan.
The 2022–23 Budget coincided with the GBR experiencing its
sixth mass bleaching event, confirmed by the Great
Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) on 25 March 2022. Coral bleaching occurs when
above-average ocean temperatures cause coral to become stressed and expel the
algal symbionts that produce their nutrition, resulting in the coral gradually
starving to death. The process of bleaching can be reversed, but only if the
ocean temperature anomaly does not persist for a lengthy period. A mass
bleaching event is declared when severe temperature stress occurs at a large
scale, typically leading to significant coral mortality. This is the first time
that a mass bleaching has been
recorded on the GBR during a La Niña weather event, which is typically
characterised by cooler water temperatures driven by rain and cloud cover on
the east coast of Australia.
The Budget and bleaching event also coincided with a 9-day monitoring
visit by scientists from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the International Union for the
Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The monitoring mission had been requested by the
World Heritage Committee as part of its decision
in 2021 as to whether the GBR should be listed as ‘in danger’.
As announced by the Government in January 2022, the $1 billion
package is focussed on four key areas:
1. Water quality improvement
More than half of the $1 billion package is allocated to
water quality initiatives ($579.9
million over 9 years), with $221.9 million of this committed over the
forward estimates (Table 2).
Water quality commitments under the Reef 2050 Plan are delivered
in accordance with the Reef
2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan 2017–2022. Targets include a 60%
reduction in dissolved inorganic nitrogen pollution and a 25% reduction in fine
sediment pollution runoff (p. 10). The next 5-yearly update of the Water
Quality Improvement Plan is due to be released in 2023.
The package provides:
- $477.1 million for a new on-ground water quality investment
program aimed at accelerating efforts to reduce runoff and meet Water
Quality Improvement Plan targets. This includes $50 million for
the Urban Water Quality initiative announced
by the Minister for the Environment and Senator Susan McDonald on 15 March
- $56.9 million investment in monitoring and reporting systems
to allow for tracking and reporting of water quality parameters.
- Details on the allocation of the remaining $45.9 million are not currently
provided on the DAWE website.
2. Reef management and conservation
The package provides $253
million in funding to the GBRMPA over 9 years for reef management and
conservation activities, with $117.6 million of this committed over the forward
estimates (Table 2).
- This includes $161.4
million to 2029–30, or between $66.1–67.1
million over the forward estimates period, for GBRMPA’s crown-of-thorns starfish
(COTS) control program (Table 2). COTS
are marine invertebrates that feed on coral; however, in certain conditions
their numbers can surge causing them to become pests and wreak havoc on coral
communities. Established in 2012, the COTS control program is delivered in
accordance with GBRMPA’s Crown-of-thorns
Starfish Strategic Management Framework and provides surveillance and
monitoring as well as tactical response (typically culls) to COTS outbreaks on
the reef. Allocations to GBRMPA under this measure will effectively mean that the
Authority will take the
lead in managing funding for COTS control programs and initiatives previously
funded through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (p. 68 and pp.122–123). GBRMPA
said (pp. 123) that it will continue working in partnership with the Great
Barrier Reef Foundation and the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre over the
coming 18 months to make arrangements for programs under the new funding.
- The remaining funds allocated to GBRMPA will be spent across GBRMPA’s
work in compliance and enforcement of marine park regulations, expansion of the
Use of Marine Resources Agreement program, and enhancing Traditional Owner
involvement in Reef management.
- Funding will also be directed to reactivation of the Tourism
Industry Activation and Reef Protection Initiative (Budget
2021–22 PAES Agriculture, Water and the Environment Portfolio Great
Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Table 1.2, p. 148). The initiative,
which had been through the Australian Government’s COVID-19 Relief and Recovery
Fund, directed $3.2 million in 2020–21
towards supporting 17 tourism operators who were contracted to carry out site
stewardship activities, such as coral health surveys and COTS control.
3. Reef restoration and adaptation
Funding in the package for reef
restoration and adaptation initiatives is directed via the Reef
Trust Special Account administered by DAWE (Table 1.2, p. 22) and consists
- $85 million over 8 years for interventions at the reef scale aimed
at artificially engineering reefs that are more resilient to warmer ocean
temperatures. This includes activities such as seeding reefs with larvae of
corals that show adaptation to warmer water, and marine cloud brightening which
aims to generate larger and more reflective clouds over the ocean to cool the
- An unspecified amount for research investment under the updated
Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (p. 50), where reef restoration
and adaptation have been added as investment priorities.
The Australian Government’s previous investment in reef
restoration and adaptation of $100 million
was announced in 2020 as part of its $443.4 million, 6-year investment in the Reef
Trust Partnership (a partnership between the Reef
Trust, managed by DAWE, and the Great
Barrier Reef Foundation).
4. Strengthening partnerships and
The final tranche of funding is allocated for Traditional Owner
and community-led projects under the theme of strengthening
partnerships and stewardship. A total of $35.9 million has been committed over
the forward estimates period (Table 2). Investment under this theme will be
- Reef protection projects ($37.1 million over 8 years)
- Investment in fisheries catch monitoring and validation
(including bycatch monitoring) ($26.7 million over 7 years starting in 2023–24).
- Details on the allocation of the remaining $10.6 million are not currently
provided on the DAWE website.
Table 2 Payments
under the Government’s ‘$1 billion Great Barrier Reef package’ committed over
the forward estimates period
|1. Accelerating actions to
improve water quality ($579.9 million over 9 years commencing 2021–22)
|Reef Trust Special Account –
accelerating actions to meet water quality targets
|2. Support for
world-leading reef management ($252.9 million over 9 years commencing
|GBRMPA – Great Barrier Reef
|Including: COTS management ($161.4 million
|Protecting the reef through world class
management – crown of thorns starfish control
|3. Reef restoration and
adaptation ($92.7 million over 8 years commencing 2022–23)(f)
|Reef Trust Special Account –
Reef adaptation and restoration
partnerships and stewardship ($74.4 million over 9 years commencing 2021–22)
|Reef Trust Special Account –
Community and Traditional owner on-ground Reef protection projects; Reef
Trust Special Account – Reducing the impact of fishing
Except where otherwise stated, headline figures for each of the 4 funding
segments are from Budget measures: Budget paper no. 2, pp. 56–57; and annual funding profiles are from Portfolio Additional Estimates Statements (PAES)
2021–22: Agriculture, Water and the Environment Portfolio (p. 22 and pp. 148–149).
- Except where otherwise
stated, totals over the forward estimates period are from the answer to
Questions on Notice, Senate Environment and Communications Legislation
Committee, 2021–22 Additional Estimates (Question No. 67).
- Figures are Parliamentary Library calculations based on the available
annual funding profiles and/or the available totals over the forward estimates.
- Evidence given at the 2021–22 Senate Additional Estimates, Environment and
Communications Legislation Committee, 14 February 2022, Hansard proof
- GBRMPA website.
- Evidence given at Senate Additional Estimates on 14 February 2022 (p. 68):
‘from 2024–25 on it works out at about $20 million to $21 million per year’.
See note (c).
- Written answer to Questions on Notice. See note (a). The figure given in Budget measures: Budget paper no. 2 2022–23 (p. 57) of $95.6 million is over 9 years from
- This figure is from evidence given at Senate Additional Estimates on 14
February 2022 (p. 69). See note (c).
Other Reef-related measures
The Government is providing $63.6 million to support
scientific research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), as announced
by the Prime Minister on 22 March 2022. This includes:
The Government is also providing $12.4 million to GBRMPA (as
by the Minister for the Environment on 16 March 2022) to extend fee relief
to local tourism businesses in the GBR Marine Park impacted by the COVID-19
pandemic (Budget paper no. 2, p. 56). The extension period will run to 30 June
Stakeholder reaction to the funding package has been mixed. At
the time of the Prime Minister’s announcement in January 2022, farming peak
bodies including Canegrowers
welcomed the injection of funding for water quality initiatives and the Environment
Minister’s acknowledgement of the work already being done by farmers to improve
their practices within the Reef catchment area.
Government Association of Queensland also welcomed the Government’s
commitment to address water quality issues, noting that the GBR supports 64,000
Environment and climate-focused organisations, including the
Conservation Foundation, World
Wildlife Fund Australia, Australian
Marine Conservation Society and the Climate
Council, have welcomed the Government’s investment
in tackling water quality and reducing run-off, but noted the broader absence
of additional commitments to address climate change—the other main threat to
the GBR according to GBRMPA
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