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Appendix E: Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

Section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) requires Australian Government organisations to report on the organisation’s contribution to ecologically sustainable development as well as the environmental performance of the organisation.

Section 516A also promotes the development of a framework that integrates environmental, economic and social considerations and helps improve the environmental and ecologically sustainable development performance of Australian Government agencies.

The following is a summary of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s (the Authority) 2018–19 activities per section 516A of the EPBC Act.

How the activities of the organisation and the administration of legislation by the organisation accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (section 516A(6)(a))

The following activities of the Authority accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development (section 516A(6)(a)):

  • administering and enforcing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act 1975 (Marine Park Act), which explicitly recognises these principles
  • working with the Department of the Environment and Energy, other agencies and stakeholders to promote ecologically sustainable development focused on:
    • ensuring the long-term protection, ecologically sustainable use, understanding and enjoyment of the Great Barrier Reef (the Reef) for all Australians and the international community through the control, care and development of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Marine Park)
    • providing policy advice to the Environment Minister to ensure the Authority’s environmental policies are mutually supportive.

During 2018–19, the Authority played a lead role in delivering the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan (Reef 2050 Plan) together with the Australian and Queensland governments and other key partners. This plan will set the Australian and Queensland governments overarching strategic framework for the Reef to address key pressures and threats.

Major progress was made towards developing the Reef 2050 Integrated Monitoring and Reporting Program as one of the Authority’s most significant actions under the Reef 2050 Plan. The program’s vision is to develop a knowledge system that enables resilience-based management of the Great Barrier Reef and its catchment, and provides managers with a comprehensive understanding of how the Reef 2050 Plan is progressing.

The range of activities presented in the Performance chapter of this annual report includes activities that integrate environmental, social, and economic considerations. In addition, the day-to-day business of the agency — ensuring the long-term sustainability of biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef — is achieved by managing the zoning plan, which was introduced on 1 July 2004 in consultation with stakeholders, communities and agencies.

The following activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development, especially by employing or promoting the use of the precautionary principle:

  • making decisions under the Marine Park Act
  • releasing publications on climate change and the Great Barrier Reef
  • making information readily available on the agency’s external website
  • working with the Australian and Queensland governments to progress implementation of the Reef 2050 Plan for the Great Barrier Reef.

The following agency activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development by aiming to promote conservation of the environment for the benefit of future generations:

  • contributing to the conservation of biodiversity through:
    • encouraging integrated coastal management and improving knowledge on the role that coastal ecosystems play in the health of the Reef
    • encouraging collective action by community, industry and government to reduce the impacts of marine debris on the Reef.
    • continuing to address the impacts of some fishing activities, illegal fishing and poaching
    • improving the quality and extent of information on the water quality of the Reef
    • continuing to implement the Marine Monitoring Program — a component of the Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program under the Reef Plan
    • contributing to the conservation of biodiversity in marine ecosystems, including through continued implementation of the Representative Areas Program
  • protecting the World Heritage values of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef through:
    • regulation, including the consideration of proposed actions predominantly in, or adjacent to, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area
    • communication, education and engagement, including the active promotion of the World Heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • working in partnership with stakeholder groups, directly or through programs, including:
    • the Reef Guardian Programs, primarily focused on schools, local government (councils) and fishers
    • Traditional Owners, by developing sustainable traditional use of marine resources practices
    • advisory groups, which assist in the management of particular issues in Marine Park locations and operational programs.

The following Authority activities accord with the principles of ecologically sustainable development by aiming to improve valuation, pricing and incentive mechanisms:

  • maintaining an accreditation program focused on high standard tourism operations
  • working in partnership with Great Barrier Reef businesses and industry to improve their acceptance and valuation of environmental and social costs and benefits. Activities in 2018–19 included:
    • maintaining the Eye on the Reef – Sightings Network, a reef monitoring and assessment program that enables anyone who visits the Reef to contribute to its long-term protection by collecting valuable information about reef health, marine animals and incidents
    • training tourism industry staff to monitor and record the health of the Reef at their high value tourism sites.

How the outcomes specified in a relevant Appropriations Act contribute to ecologically sustainable development (section 516A(6)(b))

The outcome for the Authority is:

The long-term protection, ecologically sustainable use, understanding and enjoyment of the Great Barrier Reef for all Australians and the international community through the care and development of the Marine Park.

This outcome is explicit in providing for the ecologically sustainable use of the Marine Park and is achieved through the delivery of three objectives:

  • to protect and restore the Reef’s ecosystem health, resilience and biodiversity
  • to safeguard the Reef’s heritage
  • to ensure use of the Marine Park is ecologically sustainable and benefits current and future generations.

A comprehensive assessment of work undertaken under these three objectives during 2018–19 is provided in the Performance chapter of this annual report.

Effect of the organisation’s activities on the environment (section 516A(6)(c))

The Authority is responsible for managing one of the world’s premier natural resources through the care and development of the Marine Park. It manages the Marine Park as a multiple-use area and permits such uses that are ecologically sustainable and allowed by legislation.

In conjunction with its partners, the Authority maintained compliance and enforcement activities during 2018–19, with funding provided by both the Australian and Queensland governments for field management.

The Authority worked with the community, local councils, volunteer Local Marine Advisory Committees and Reef Guardian Schools to undertake rubbish removal from sensitive sites, reduce dumping and encourage positive environmental behaviour.

Measures being taken by the organisation to minimise the impact of its activities on the environment (section 516A(6)(d))

The Authority maintains a strong commitment to the continuous improvement of its own environmental performance. The reconstitution of a green office committee provides opportunities to minimise impacts.

Reef HQ Aquarium continues to deliver in the area of energy efficiency and minimising environmental impacts. Sustainability is a key component of value for money procurement decisions and includes reducing energy consumption through the use of energy-efficient building materials, and the installation of more efficient lighting, pumps and other equipment.

Inspiring behavioural change to reduce waste and increase environmental awareness has been achieved in a number of ways, including:

  • engaging staff and visitors in reducing peak energy demand through internal temperature control adjustment, keeping doors closed and switching off lights
  • installing a new hydration station, removing single-use coffee cups, using recyclable and biodegradable containers in the café and retail areas, for example bamboo straws and serving bowls, as part of a holistic retail sustainability strategy
  • showcasing sustainable material choices as part of talks and tours.

The investment in renewable energy that began with the installation of a 153-kilowatt peak photovoltaic system in 2011–12 and an additional 44 kilowatts in early 2013–14, was fully repaid in 2017. Reef HQ Aquarium’s consumption remained 50 per cent less than the 2005–06 baseline (when energy-saving retrofit began), this year reaching a total ongoing reduction of 52 per cent. A small-scale pilot of wind generated energy is due for expansion in the near future.

During the reporting period, Reef HQ Aquarium’s solar power station produced 104,400-kilowatt hours of energy, 153 new solar panels were installed and 1,726 tonnes of carbon emissions offset.

Other measures put in place over the last year include:

  • using the building management system to redirect and manage energy consumption
  • increased focus on source reduction across Authority locations to reduce the volume of recycling going to landfill
  • using an automated office lighting system in the main Townsville building to reduce energy consumption
  • maintaining the triple-tier Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Certification of Reef HQ Aquarium for Advanced Ecotourism, Climate Action Business and Respecting our Culture — the aquarium is one of only 15 organisations nationwide to achieve this
  • choosing environmentally sustainable materials for Reef HQ Aquarium exhibits
  • taking Australian Greenhouse Office specifications on fuel consumption targets into account when making vehicle leasing decisions
  • using hybrid energy vehicles for fleet use and using only ethanol-inclusive fuels (E10) in those vehicles
  • undertaking pest control using methods designed to minimise environmental impact
  • using energy-efficient multi-function devices (photocopiers, printers, scanners) and programming them for duplex printing to reduce paper usage
  • sending photocopier toner cartridges, disused desktop phones and disused mobile phones for recycling
  • collecting fluorescent tubes, batteries and cardboard waste for recycling
  • actively encouraging staff to recycle office paper and cardboard, which is collected by a local recycling company
  • recycling packaging and envelopes
  • printing corporate publications on recycled paper
  • providing documents electronically where possible to reduce paper use
  • using recycled toilet paper and hand towels in toilets, and using dual-flush toilets as a water conservation measure.

Mechanisms for reviewing and increasing the effectiveness of these measures (section 516A(6)(e))

Close analysis of energy performance helps the Authority determine how it can most effectively adopt the minimum energy performance measures to meet its needs and the Australian Government’s targets.

In considering lease arrangements for future office accommodation, the Authority will take into account a range of efficiency options, including seeking to achieve a minimum of 4.5 star National Australian Built Environment Rating System rating.