HAPPY REEF: Over 10 years, the Reef Islands Initiative is looking to support a network of refuges protecting and restoring unique island habitat and reef sites PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
HAPPY REEF: Over 10 years, the Reef Islands Initiative is looking to support a network of refuges protecting and restoring unique island habitat and reef sites PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

$5m for restoring reefs, providing wildlife safe havens

THE Whitsundays will be the new focus of a new initiative to establish a spectacular network of island refuges for marine and plant life in the Great Barrier Reef.

The Federal Government is investing $5m through the Reef Trust as part of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's $14m Reef Islands Initiative that focuses on the vital role islands play in the health of the Reef and the sustainability of wildlife.

Over 10 years the Reef Islands Initiative is looking to support a network of refuges protecting and restoring unique island habitat and reef sites.

The program's first project at Lady Elliot Island continues to support the long-term work of island custodians the Gash family, who have transformed a site once degraded by 'guano' mining into a pristine haven for marine life, birdlife, native vegetation and coral reefs.

"The passion of people like the Gash family, supported by the Reef Islands Initiative demonstrates what can be achieved in nurturing marine island havens, and it is exciting to see the program move to a new phase," Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said today.

"In Airlie Beach today the Reef Islands project team will meet with scientists, tourism operators and Traditional Owners and community representatives to prioritise the Whitsundays program that will include protecting existing areas, restoring damaged reefs and providing safe havens for wildlife."

Reef Special Envoy Warren Entsch said the project demonstrated how communities and tourism groups who depend on the reef can work together.

"This is the best managed reef system in the world and it is an amazing place to visit," he said.

"The communities who live here and the people whose livelihoods depend on the reef are working with government to ensure its ongoing protection."

Member for Dawson George Christensen said the focus on the Whitsundays highlighted its place as one of the world's most idyllic tourism destinations.

"It is important that people understand that there are many facets to the reef and investments such as this will strengthen that diversity," Mr Christensen said.

"The islands initiative will also encourage more people to come and visit this beautiful part of the world and appreciate all it has to offer."

The Reef Islands Initiative is a $14 million, 10-year program of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, supported by funding from the Australian Government, Lendlease, the Queensland Government and the Fitzgerald Family Foundation.


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