Australia ‘committed’ to barrier reef


Australia on Saturday insisted it is committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef after the United Nations warned that the natural wonder’s World Heritage status might be downgraded in 2014.

UNESCO said little has been done to address concerns about rampant coastal development and water quality raised a year ago with the Australian government in a warning that its heritage status was at risk.

“The state party has made progress on some key issues and actions, but progress on several recommendations, including those related to water quality and measures to prevent coastal development . . . remains limited,” UNESCO said ahead of its annual congress next month in Phnom Penh. “Urgent and decisive action is needed to address these issues.”

Without a “firm and demonstrable commitment on these priority issues,” UNESCO said the reef should be considered for inscription on the list of World Heritage sites in danger in 2014.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her government has taken steps to increase protection of the reef, including 200 million Australian dollars ($206 million) toward the Reef Rescue water quality project.

“We are very committed to keeping the Great Barrier Reef as the wonderful heritage area for the world that it is and for our nation,” Gillard told reporters.