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Controversial grant divvied up to preserve Reef health

Ten per cent of a controversial $444 million grant was given to traditional owners to protect the future of the Reef

A small charity has allocated 10 per cent of a controversial half-a-billion-dollar gift from the federal government to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation’s (GBRF) “largest single investment for Traditional Owner Reef protection” is part of an investment Strategy for the Reef Trust Partnership that came into place after it received $443.3 million without proper processes.

GBRF Managing Director, Anna Marsden, said: “Traditional Owners have an enduring connection to the Reef and have worked to conserve and restore it for generations.”

She said the plan, co-developed with Traditional Owners, will build on existing activities which includes tagging turtles, cleaning beaches, monitoring the health of waterways and remediating land and sea county along the Great Barrier Reef.

The federal government granted the large sum to the charity despite it not applying for it and not having an investment strategy in place. This started an uproar in the sector, with Labor promising to reallocate the money if they are elected into office.

A Senate environment committee is investigating why the GBRF was the recipient of the grant. Despite previously criticising former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for his role last April, current Prime Minister Scott Morrison came forward and admitted that he had responsibility for the decision, claiming he wanted to take “urgent” action.

The Traditional Owners deal in the now-existing investment strategy is part of a five-year plan to improve water quality, restore Reef health and harness science to support Reef resilience, prevent starfish from eating coral and monitor overall grant progress.

“During the International Year of the Reef, the Australian Government announced the largest ever single investment in Reef protection, $443.3 million for the Reef Trust Partnership over six years,” Marsden explained of the grant in a statement.

“The Reef Trust Partnership is an investment in not only the future of the Great Barrier Reef, but also in Australian jobs and our economy,” she added.

The investment builds on previously announced initiatives under the partnership, which includes a number of grant programs that are slowly being rolled out.

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