Protecting a global wonder

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Environmental and stakeholder management informs debate

Considered one of the most iconic natural landmarks on the planet, the Great Barrier Reef remains at risk from a range of potential threats, including climate adaptation and coastal development. GHD collaborated with authorities on two projects to assess and report potential risks and to offer recommendations to ensure the region is protected for future generations.

Future ship anchorage

For the first project, GHD assembled a multidisciplinary team for the Australian Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). The team will conduct a study to inform future ship anchorage at the five major ports in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Dr Kerry Neil, GHD's Service Line Leader for Water Sciences, says, "GHD assessed the environmental, social and economic impacts surrounding current and future use of ship anchorages servicing the ports of Cairns, Townsville, Gladstone, Abbot Point and Hay Point in Queensland.

"The objective was to provide a strategy to minimise impacts associated with anchorage use while maintaining efficient port operations. This is one of a series of reports that the Australian Government will draw upon for response to concerns raised by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee about impacts to the Great Barrier Reef.

"The project involved considerable stakeholder and industry consultation work. There is a wide number of stakeholders who have a vested interest in shipping and anchorage in the World Heritage Area, and not all share the same views. They do, however, all have valid perspectives and it was important to maintain their involvement."

The project report, which is now finalised, has been logged with the National Library of Australia.

Governance of the reef

The first project report will be used to inform future planning in the region alongside a second project GHD supported: a complex strategic assessment of the governance of the Great Barrier Reef.

This strategic assessment was developed for the reef through combined works completed by the Queensland Government and the GBRMPA. GHD played an active role supporting the Queensland Government's coastal zone assessment.

With the draft strategic assessment reports released for public comment, GHD assisted both the Queensland and Australian governments in a stakeholder engagement initiative to seek out international views.

The assessment responds to UNESCO's concerns about risks to the health of the reef due to coastal development. It is the largest of its kind ever completed in Australia. It critically reviews the governance of factors having an impact on the reef and identifies areas for improvement.

Kerry explains, "Our people blended scientific knowledge, consultation skills, desktop publishing and graphic design, working for more than 10 months with multiple government departments. We are also managing the joint 13 week public consultation process for both the GBRMPA and the Queensland Government through a dedicated website.

"The strategic assessment and public consultation garnered wide media coverage around the world; the website had more than 26,000 views from people in 74 countries, and there were around 6500 submissions."

The international consultation will help to inform the final reports. The Australian Minister for the Environment will consider findings from this project, and peer review, in responding to UNESCO's concerns.

For more information, contact Kerry Neil on on +61 7 3316 3187 or email



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