Australia on Thursday pledged 52 million dollars (42 million US) to improve water quality on the Great Barrier Reef, which is coming under increasing threat from toxic chemicals and climate change.
Environment Minister Peter Garrett said the money would go to conservation and agriculture groups to help local farmers reduce run-off of pesticides and other chemicals into the World Heritage-listed reef.
“This is the most significant investment any commonwealth government has put into our most important national treasure,” said Garrett.
“It does face significant pressures, not the least of which is climate change.”
Garrett said scientists, non-government groups and Aboriginal representatives would form an “extraordinary coalition of cooperative interests” to protect the reef.
“It’s a very, very important and powerful partnership and we have really high expectations that we can really start to take great care of this important natural asset,” he said.
The funding push follows new laws, passed in January, allowing for farmers to be fined if they allow pesticides and fertilisers to run off into the seas around the reef -- described as the world’s largest living organism.
Coral growth has slowed markedly on the 345,000-square-kilometre (133,000-square-mile) attraction off Australia’s northeast, with scientists blaming raised sea temperatures and higher acidity caused by global warming.