Forty years ago this, WPSQ started its campaign to protect the whole of the Great Barrier Reef from limestone mining and oil drilling. Thanks to the vision and commitment of those members in 1967, we can still visit the largest living thing in the whole world off our coastline.
Milestones in the battle for the Reef
1963 The newly formed WPSQ voices concern about over-exploitation of the Great Barrier Reef.
1967 Queensland Department of Mines receives an application to mine limestone on Ellison Reef off Innisfail.
1967 Queensland Government prepares to grant licenses for offshore oil exploration on the Reef.
June 1967 Des Connell from the newly formed Littoral Society of Queensland and WPSQ council member publishes an article in the WPSQ newsletter about Queensland’s responsibility for the Great Barrier Reef and its lack of protections.
1967 WPSQ members, alerted by the President of the Innisfail Branch, begin a campaign to preserve the Reef from these threats.
1969 An oil drilling permit is granted that allows exploration in the whole of the reef.
1969 The ‘Save the Barrier Reef’ campaign committee is formed in Brisbane and Judith Wright, President of WPSQ, becomes the committee’s patron.
1970 Campaigning leads to the Royal Commission into Exploratory and Production Drilling for Petroleum in the Great Barrier Reef commences. This delays any mineralexploitation of the Reef.
1974 Following the Royal ommission, both the Australian and Queensland governments prohibit petroleum drilling on the Great Barrier Reef.
1975 The passing of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act establishes the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Sections of the Reef continued to be added to the Park up to 2001.
1977 Publication of The Coral Battleground by Judith Wright, the classic account of the campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef that was spearheaded by the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland.
1981 Granting of World Heritage status to the Great Barrier Reef.
1990 The International Maritime Organization declares the Great Barrier Reef as the world’s first Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA).
1994 The 25-Year Strategic Plan for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area outlines strategies for managing and preserving the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. WPSQ helps co-develop the Plan.
2004 All sections of the Park consolidated into one entity.
The battle for the Great Barrier Reef can be considered the first modern conservation campaign in Australia.
Apart from its environmental value, the Great Barrier Reef is important in many ways.
Global warming is probably the single biggest threat to the future of the Great Barrier Reef because it is predicted to cause rises in sea temperature. Tropical coral reefs are sensitive to sea temperature and water that is even 1 degree Centigrade too warm causes fatal bleaching of the coral.