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Campaigners dismiss inadequate Australian Great Barrier Reef protection plan

Environmental activists lashed out at a new Australian government plan purporting to protect the Great Barrier Reef yesterday. 

The plan had been released to allay UN concerns but the activists said that it was inadequate to halt the reef’s decline.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt claimed that the draft “Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan” was an effort to balance important priorities.

“Maintaining and protecting this iconic World Heritage area, while considering the needs for long-term sustainable development, is a critical priority,” Mr Hunt alleged.

But WWF Australia head Dermot O’Gorman said the draft did not set high enough targets for cutting agricultural pollution or provide “the billions of dollars required to restore the health of the reef.”

“At this stage, Reef 2050 lacks the bold new actions needed in order to halt the reef’s decline,” Mr O’Gorman said.

The draft plan bans future port development in the Fitzroy Delta, Keppel Bay and North Curtis Island near Rockhampton in Queensland state — areas of the reef described by environmentalists as key incubators of marine life — but it exempts priority port development areas from the ban.

Australian Marine Conservation Society spokeswoman Felicity Wishart said it should have recommended laws to minimise dredging as well as ban dumping in reef waters.

“From our point of view the reef is in dire straits,” she said, adding that the plan should have been a “lifeline” to turn the reef around over the next 35 years.

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