Joint media release: Boost for Great Barrier Reef tourism operators

16 December 2020

The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
The Hon Warren Entsch MP, Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef


With the hope of domestic tourism returning to the Great Barrier Reef, tourism operators, businesses, and individuals with a permit to operate in Reef’s Marine Park will get further relief from the extension of Commonwealth Government fee waivers.

Regulations have been amended to deliver the $6 million relief measure to operators, with the waiving of the Environmental Management Charge, normally associated with most commercial activities on the Reef until 30 June 2021.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the six-month extension, initially announced in the October Federal Budget, was among a range of measures for a reef economy that has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are helping to reduce the costs of visiting the Reef at a time when we hope to see some signs of recovery for Reef tourism,” Minister Ley said.

“Through the COVID Relief fund, we have also invested $8.2 million in the Reef economy, including $3.2 million to engage tourism operators in reef monitoring and conservation work, and $5 million for Townsville’s Reef HQ.

“The marine tourism industry is a key partner in Reef protection and management, playing an important role in the protection of the world’s largest Reef ecosystem.

“They have been hit hard by COVID’s impacts and while we are hopefully seeing some signs of recovery there will be a long road ahead.

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef Warren Entsch said that the Morrison Government was committed to supporting the Reef and the Reef economy.

“This is a time for Australians to take the time to visit the Reef, it is an amazing natural wonder and, as travel restrictions ease, it is an opportunity to experience its beauty and support local businesses,” the Special Envoy said.

“We are delivering on a budget commitment that will provide relief for the industry at a time when it is very much needed.

“Prior to COVID-19, the Great Barrier Reef region contributed $6.4 billion to the Australian economy and supported an estimated 64,000 jobs and we can all play a part in helping it to recover and grow.”

The environmental management charge is associated with most commercial facilities and activities, including tourism operations, non-tourist charter operations, operating under a permit issued by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

For most tourism operations, Marine Park visitors participating in a tourist activity are liable to pay the charge to the permit holder, who then remits the charge to the Authority.

This extended waiver will cost the Australian Government $6 million over the 2020-21 and 2021-22 financial years, and is one of several measures in place for the Reef tourism industry.

Application and assessment fees for permits to operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park are also currently waived until the end of June 2021, providing additional support for businesses.