Reef Trust may be funded by slashing water quality funds

THE MONEY for the Abbott Government's $40 million Reef Trust may come from an equivalent cut to the $200 million Reef Rescue water quality program, Senate estimates has heard.

A late-night budget estimates hearing for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority confirmed the $40 million cut to the Reef Rescue program on Tuesday.

The cut comes on top of a $2.8 million "savings measure" for the authority, and a cut to the Australian Institute of Marine Science, which leads reef research nationally.

But the budget is unclear on whether the Reef Rescue, as it existed under the previous government, will continue - with the $40 million allocated to the Reef Trust to also establish the promised Reef 2050 Plan.

Budget papers instead say the funding for the Reef Trust - an external body which is yet to be established - will actually come from a cut to the National Landcare program.

Queensland Greens Senator Larissa Waters, who raised the issue in estimates, said the cut seemed to come from the "successful" Reef Rescue to fund an "amorphous blob" in the Reef Trust.

Sen Waters said the cut and numerous expected job cuts at the authority and department were "atrocious", after the Gladstone bund wall review found staff and resources for compliance and environmental assessments was already lacking.

Questions about where the funding actually came from, and what the future of the Reef Rescue would be, remained unanswered by the Environment Department yesterday.

Officials at estimates hearings similarly shed little light on the future funding situation, saying it was up to budget processes and structural changes.



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