Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef C Veron

Promised $40m Reef Trust to go 26 years early

THE promised $40 million Reef Trust, created to help fund the key Reef 2050 Plan, will be dissolved after only 10 years of operation - 26 years before the plan's targets could be realised.

On Monday this week, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann officially approved the creation of the Reef Trust, through "special account determination" yet to be confirmed by parliament.

The move came as Environment Minister Greg Hunt and his state counterpart Andrew Powell released the joint Reef 2050 Plan, which will aim to reverse the decline of the Great Barrier Reef by 2050.

But the "special account" trust, which was set up to ensure funds could be provided to achieve the plan's outcomes by 2050, will be shut down in 2024, after only 10 years of operation.

In documents filed with Senator Cormann's official approval of the creation of the special account, a standard "sunset clause" has been included, as all such accounts have, to ensure the trust is automatically repealed after 10 years.

It will mean that after its automatic repeal in October 2024, the future of the Reef Trust will be up to the government of day, potentially leaving nothing to replace it for the next 26 years of management out to 2050.

While such clauses are standard practice for special accounts, under the Legislative Instruments Act, it will mean that the trust will be dissolved 26 years before the final outcomes of the Reef 2050 Plan are available.

The trust was set up to provide extra funds to achieve the plan's objectives, but will only be part of the funding allocated to help manage the reef, despite some cuts to the marine park authority in the May budget.

After the initial $40 million of federal funds are injected into the trust, it will also be topped up with contributions from the state, private groups and from offset payments under major projects affecting the reef.

Questions put to Mr Hunt's office regarding the legislative quirk, and whether other funding options were considered for the Reef Trust, were not answered before deadline on Tuesday.


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