Rob Cocco, Reef Catchments. Photo: Contributed
Rob Cocco, Reef Catchments. Photo: Contributed

Group seeks $40m to improve water quality

STANDING outside a service station near Australia's first inland city is not where you would expect to find a man who makes his living on the water.

But that's where Explore Whitsunday owner Al Grundy was on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Grundy was driving from Sydney to Canberra to support Reef Catchments chief executive Rob Cocco and other key representatives from the Mackay/Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership in their bid to secure $40m of funding for the Mackay/Whitsunday region in the next five years.

The group hopes to convince Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt that as a key Great Barrier Reef tourist destination, the Whitsundays deserves adequate funding for water quality improvement and monitoring programs.

Reef Catchments has received a strong letter of support from Whitsunday Regional Council.

Federal Member for Dawson, George Christensen, who organised the meeting, said the group believed that because of their successful track record with water quality improvement programs, they should be given more Federal Government support.

Mr Grundy said he hoped that by attending yesterday's meeting with Mr Hunt, he could show that tourism, agriculture and ports could work together to create better outcomes for the region's waterways and marine park.

Mr Grundy said it worried him that much of the funding for research and monitoring was heading north of Townsville.

"The contribution that the Whitsundays makes to the overall tourism visitation in the entire marine park is so critical. We're now 43% of all (tourism) visitations (to the GBR), and as a result we need to do all we can to resolve the water quality issues on the inner shelf reefs."

Mr Cocco said from 2008-13, the region received $36m of investment under Reef Rescue. The region also received $15m under the Reef Programme, which ends next year.

The partnership is concerned that if funding allocation processes remain unchanged, the Whitsundays will miss out on most of the $200m up for grabs in the governments' Reef Trust.


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