Joint media release: Great Barrier Reef tourism and regional economic boost

12 May 2020

The Hon Michael McCormack MP, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Leader of The Nationals, Federal Member for Riverina
Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment
The Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for the Environment
The Hon Warren Entsch MP, Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef


Tourism operators on the Great Barrier Reef will receive much needed additional support from the Morrison-McCormack Government.

An estimated $3 million in further fee relief from the Minister for Environment’s portfolio will be provided to local tourism businesses, as well as an additional $2.6 million from the $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund to upgrade Reef HQ’s tourism infrastructure, helping one of the regional economies hit hardest during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said the Federal Government was committed to helping sectors, regions and communities disproportionately affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“So many regional economies have suffered through this pandemic and we are determined to help them rebuild and recover,” Mr McCormack said.

“By supporting tourism operators on the Great Barrier Reef, we are protecting so many livelihoods.”

Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham said that the initiative would provide vital assistance for local tourism businesses who had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We want to ensure that tourism businesses can continue to operate on the other side and play a major role in helping the industry, and ultimately our economy, to recover from this,” Minister Birmingham said. 

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said that the $2.6 million for Townsville’s Reef HQ Aquarium would fund upgrades for systems that support the Aquarium’s marine life and will provide a number of employment and business opportunities in North Queensland. This investment is in addition to previously allocated capital works funding of $26.9 million.

“Reef HQ and the tourism industry play a vital role in educating visitors, and all Australians, about the Reef and about the ways we can help sustain it into the future,” Minister Ley said.

“Importantly, the waiving of the Environmental Management Charges will not be at the expense of Reef protection, with the Australian Government providing additional funding over this period to support the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in its world-class management of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef Warren Entsch said that Tourism Operators needed support at this time.

“We have a fantastic tourism industry along the Great Barrier Reef and they have been hit hard by this crisis,” he said.

“This will make a big difference and hopefully help them to be a part of our economic recovery.”

The Government had previously announced the waiving of the Environmental Management Charge (EMC) from 1 April 2020 to 31 Dec 2020. Approving the backdating of the EMC to 1 January of this year will result in around $3 million in further relief for the industry.

In addition, the Government will be waiving tourism operator Marine Park permit fees to 30 June 2021.

Urgent amendments to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park legislation will be put forward to enact the backdating of the EMC waiver.

In the interim, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is minimising the financial hardship on businesses through the deferral of payments to allow for the legislative amendments to be made.