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Australian Government to explore new southern Reef research

Published: Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Australian Government is continuing to support the development of sound science to underpin its efforts to preserve and manage the Great Barrier Reef.

Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg announced today that, as part of its commitment under the Reef 2050 Plan, the Government had agreed to provide up to $260,000 to develop a feasibility study for a Coastal Marine Ecosystem Research Centre at the Gladstone campus of the Central Queensland University.

“The feasibility study is intended to assess how a new research centre could complement existing multi-disciplinary efforts to support the interaction between communities and the Reef’s marine environment, drawing together expertise across environmental science, economics, engineering and social sciences,” Minister Frydenberg said.

“The Australian Government is making a significant investment in Great Barrier Reef science and conservation. Together with the Queensland Government, we are investing more than $2 billion over the coming decade in the health of the Reef.

“It is clear that climate change is the single biggest threat to reefs worldwide, as evidenced by the global coral bleaching event that seriously damaged the Great Barrier Reef over 2016 and 2017.

“While global efforts to reduce climate change are underway, the focus of the Reef 2050 plan is on improving the Reef’s resilience to climate change by reducing local and regional pressures.

“Funding towards improving knowledge of our use of coastal ecosystems will help us to ensure that the Reef continues to be effectively managed to address the challenges it faces.”

The funding was welcomed by Central Queensland federal MPs Ken O’Dowd and Michelle Landry, who said they had lobbied Minister Frydenbeg and other colleagues for the feasibility study.

“Today’s announcement has the potential to have far reaching benefits to not only the Central Queensland community but on a world scale,” Mr O’Dowd said.

“Given Gladstone’s proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and our harbour being Eastern Australia’s deepest natural, we’ve always had the potential to be a leading authority in marine research. Today’s announcement sees the realisation of that potential take a giant leap forward. 

“Here in Central Queensland, and especially Gladstone, we see so many of our brightest and best students relocate to other centres to pursue their studies. The development of a world class coastal marine ecosystems research centre would not only ‘retain the brains’ here in Gladstone but potentially draw researchers from all over the globe here to Gladstone to study their chosen field of expertise,” Mr O’Dowd said.

Ms Landry said she was pleased to see the possibility of increased marine research in Central Queensland move a step closer.

“I will continue to press my colleagues to support a new marine research centre at CQU’s Gladstone campus,” Ms Landry said.

“The southern Great Barrier Reef region has an especially rich and diverse environment but at the same time is adjacent to major agricultural and industrial developments, as well as major urban centres and ports.

“Research from a dedicated centre based here in Central Queensland could add significantly to our knowledge of the region and how best to balance continuing growth with protection of our iconic freshwater rivers, inshore habitats and the wonderful southern Great Barrier Reef.

“CQU could also apply expertise and knowledge developed in Gladstone to other areas where it has campuses or study centres, as far away as the Western Australian coast .”

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said possible development of a Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC) at CQU’s Gladstone Marina Campus was an exciting concept.

“CQU tells me CMERC would focus on practical research outcomes that help maintain and enhance our marine and terrestrial biodiversity and heritage, ranging from river headwaters to the outer Great Barrier Reef.

“It would facilitate sustainable interactions between humans and coastal marine environments. It would develop techniques to foster the resilience of natural habitats and, through selective intervention and habitat restoration, enhance their growth and sustainability.

“As established ports in Northern Australia expand to accommodate growing export volumes, finding ways to protect and enhance the marine environment while allowing necessary development there will become even more pressing and important.”

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