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Tourism bosses, industrialists clash over Great Barrier Reef plans

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Tourism bosses, industrialists clash over Great Barrier Reef plans

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't heard of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The largest interconnected system of coral reefs on the planet, the Great Barrier Reef attracts millions of tourists from around the world each year, many of whom choose to stay in serviced apartments in the coastal cities and towns of Queensland. However, according to The Guardian, the reef - and its vibrant tourism industry - are threatened by plans to develop and industrialize the ports in the area, and the issue is coming to a head in light of impending regional elections.

Urgent dangers
The proposed plan to expand Queensland's ports near the Great Barrier Reef has been one of the most hotly contested issues in northeast Australia in recent memory. Lobbyists for Queensland's energy production and maritime trade industries claim that the plans could generate thousands of jobs and revitalize the state's struggling economy. Environmental advocates have argued just as hard that any plans to develop the state's industrial presence near the reef could be catastrophic.

Daniel Gschwind, CEO of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, told the news source that in addition to the obvious environmental threats posed by potential expansion of coal production facilities near the reef, the area's tourism industry could be all but wiped out.

"The health of the reef is of enormous importance to us," said Gschwind. "When you ask prospective visitors why they would come to Australia, the reef features extremely highly on the list. It's fair to say we haven't been as vocal as other industries that are better resourced than us in the hurly burly of politics to make their arguments to government."

Political opposition
With so many environmental advocates up in arms over the proposals, it should come as little surprise that the Australian Green Party also recently weighed in on the plans. According to The Australian, Christine Milne, leader of the party, has publicly voiced her opposition to the expansion and said that the government had kept their decision to greenlight the project under wraps until after the elections.

Milne added that her party's plans for the reef included levying higher taxes on the wealthy and reducing subsidies to mining corporations to fund a $161 million Great Barrier Reef protection plan.

Whether the Great Barrier Reef will be the site of large-scale industrial expansion remains to be seen, but there is little doubt that the future of this crucial ecosystem hangs in the balance.