Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is valuable—and now everyone knows how valuable.
The Great Barrier Reef Foundation commissioned a study by the Deloitte Access Economics to place a monetary value on the reef.
The reef, it reports, is worth AU$56 billion, about US$42.3 billion.
Deloitte Access Economics’ John O’Mahony tried to explain the number.
The reef is itself an attraction, he said, but it is also part of the Australian brand.
Everyone planning to visit or do business with Australia knows about the reef.
If Australia can’t preserve it, it speaks to the nation’s character.
“It’s how we see ourselves, it’s how the world sees Australia,” said O’Mahony, “not just our ownership of the reef but also our custodianship of it. We have to look after it because if we don’t, it won’t just be the reef that’s affected but also how the world sees Australia.”
The report was really a plea for better reef management, he said.
“The purpose of doing a report like this isn’t to commodify the environment or to suggest it’s for sale, because it’s obviously not,” O’Mahony stated. “It’s to help raise awareness about the value of the reef and suggest that we should be doing more to protect it.”
The reef has been damaged by shipping, eaten by predatory starfish, and bleached by sun and chemicals, which flow off the land into the ocean or into rivers, which flow into the ocean. Rivers are the largest source of reef nutrients—and the largest source of pollution.
Poor water quality and coastal development, which go hand-in-hand, are possibly the worst threats.
Col McKenzie, executive director of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators, was more direct in his assessment and more dire in his prediction.
“We don’t have an industry without the (Great) Barrier Reef being in good condition,” he said. “Seventy percent of our market comes from overseas and a lot of that is long-haul flights out of Europe or out of America, and if we don’t look after the reef, we don’t have an industry.”
“It’s really that simple,” he said.