The Great Barrier Reef is not dead, is not dying and is not even on life support, federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has declared after her first official visit to the World Heritage-listed site.
Returning from a snorkelling trip to Moore and Flynn reefs offshore from Cairns, Ms Ley was happy yesterday to broadcast the message that tourism operators desperately want heard around the world.
“Today we saw coral that was struggling but we also saw coral that was coming back, that was growing, that was vibrant,” Ms Ley said.
“We saw amazing wildlife, fish, turtles, clams. We saw a reef teeming with life.
“It gives me heart and hope that the future of this magnificent part of the world is a good one.”
Ms Ley said not everything was perfect and there had been areas that were struggling from the impact of cyclones.
However, she told The Australian conditions were better than she had expected.
“I was expecting to see dead areas with a few patches of life,” Ms Ley said.
“I saw the exact opposite to that.”
Ms Ley has spent three days touring the coastal area around Cairns speaking to farmers, tourism bodies and reef scientists.
She has backed the concerns of all sides and attempted to avoid some of the more bitter areas of dispute.
These include new water quality regulations for Queensland farmers, calls for better quality assurance for reef science and the outsourcing of reef program delivery to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation by the Turnbull government.
The Queensland government has introduced new water quality laws to parliament that will more closely monitor and supervise fertiliser use and nutrient run-off in Great Barrier Reef catchments.
Marine scientist Peter Ridd has begun a speaking tour in Queensland calling for a new body to check the quality of reef research.
Accompanying Ms Ley on the visit this week has been Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden.
The GBR Foundation has been given $444 million by the federal government and is expected to raise matching funds from private donors.
The federal opposition had said it would have withdrawn the funding if it won the federal election.