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Water quality research welcomed

By Mark Beale

WHITSUNDAY tourism operators have welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of more than $31 million over six years for research into tropical water quality through the National Environmental Science Program.

Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association (WCBIA) president Tony Brown and Explore Whitsundays director Al Grundy said this was a fantastic outcome as long as a fair proportion of that funding came here.

“The Whitsundays generates 42 per cent of all commercial tourism visits into the entire Great Barrier Reef Marine Park so our argument is with the water quality issues we have and given [our contribution], we should get the lion share of the research dollars here,” Mr Grundy said.

Both Mr Brown and Mr Grundy said the Whitsundays had seen a marked decline in water quality since about 2007-8 and that nobody seemed to know why.

They said there had been plenty of speculation over whether water quality decline was caused by urban or agricultural run-off, cyclones, Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS), industrialisation on the coast, or dredging and dumping of spoil from ports.

“We don’t believe we’ve properly diagnosed our problem yet and without proper diagnosis of what’s making our water quality decline, we can’t give our reef the proper medicine,” Mr Grundy said.

Federal Member for Dawson, George Christensen, met with Mr Brown and Mr Grundy on Tuesday and promised he would fight for the region’s fair share.

He also promised that in the new year he would ask representatives from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC) to come to the Whitsundays to consult with tourism operators about their water quality concerns.

Mr Brown said this was just as important as the funding itself.

“That to me is a massive win – [George has] listened to us and not only has he got the funding, he’s also setting up a meeting where researchers and industry can get together and workshop what the concerns are,” he said.

Mr Christensen agreed that “to fix a problem you’ve got to find out what’s causing it”.

“And that’s exactly what this is about,” he said.

He also said that “whatever comes out of this research we need to take action”.

“And if it’s urban impacts that are causing the problem it’s going to come back to each and every household to take more responsibility for what we do.”

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