Protect Great Barrier Reef: UNESCO

UNESCO has handed the State and Australian Governments an ultimatum.

Do more to protect the Great Barrier Reef or risk it being listed as in danger.

The warning came at a World Heritage Committee meeting in Russia on Thursday and follows the release of a UNESCO report, which provided a damning assessment of the mining industry's impact on the natural gem.

The committee has requested a progress report on the conservation of the reef by next February to ascertain whether the Government has implemented any of UNESCO's recommendations.

In the absence of any substantial progress, the committee will consider putting the reef on the list of world heritage in danger.

The committee also requested Australia not permit any further developments outside existing major port areas.

Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said the committee's decision required careful consideration.

"We will need to determine appropriate responses to the recommendations, keeping in mind that many of the recommendations reinforce processes that are already well underway," Mr Burke said.

In Queensland, Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the State Government would continue to address UNESCO's concerns.

"This includes pursuing a strategic ports plan to ensure development occurs in a measured and responsible manner in the future," he said.

Greenpeace senior climate campaigner John Hepburn said it was time for a moratorium on major developments with potential to impact the value of the reef.

"It is not surprising that the World Heritage Committee is deeply concerned about Australia's lack of action to defend the Reef from the potential consequences of significant industrial development on the coast," he said.

"Gladstone Harbour, which has been dramatically impacted by LNG developments, could set a precedent for what is ahead up and down the World Heritage Area if all the coal industry plans proceed."


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