Environmentalists wary of $40 million Barrier Reef Trust

THE Abbott government has set aside $40 million for a Great Barrier Reef trust to help improve the World Heritage icon, but environmentalists are wary.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt and his Queensland counterpart Andrew Powell this week announced the Reef Trust.

The trust would specifically invest in controlling crown of thorns starfish, a new dugong and turtle protection plan and marine debris clean-up activities.

It will also fund an Australian Crime Commission investigation into illegal poaching and transportation of dugong and turtle meat and turtle rehabilitation centres in the far north.

Releasing a discussion paper about the trust, Mr Hunt said he wanted to start a conversation about what the future direction of government investment in protection for the reef should be.

"Protection for the Great Barrier Reef is an ongoing challenge and the Reef Trust will play a pivotal role in targeting key areas of need," he said.

While The Greens Queensland Senator Larissa Waters welcomed investments in controlling starfish outbreaks, she said it did nothing to address dredging near the reef.

Sen Waters said it also did nothing to address the recommendations of the World Heritage Committee on protecting the reef from industrialisation.

WWF Australia spokesman Sean Hoobin said the trust could play a critical role in restoring the reef "if governments are brave enough to make it independent".

"The government's seed funding of $40 million is welcomed but to get the scale of action needed to restore the Reef will require billions not millions of dollars," he said.

The discussion paper is online at the Environment Department's website: www.environment.gov.au

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