[SYDNEY] Australia's government plans a A$1 billion (S$1 billion) fund to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the effects of climate change and declining water quality.
Warming waters are bleaching the reef's coral, while run-off from the land such as farm fertiliser is harming water quality, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at a news conference in Queensland Monday, less than three weeks out from a general election.
The reef, a Unesco world heritage site, is "unique, it's gigantic, it's an enormous economic driver here in north Queensland and it's one that we are committed to protect for our children, grandchildren and many generations to come," he said.
The reef is the largest living structure on the planet, stretching 2,300 kilometers (1,430 miles) along Australia's north-eastern coastline, and is home to more than 1,600 types of fish and more than 30 species of whales and dolphins, according to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
The reef supports almost 70,000 full-time jobs and is worth more than A$5 billion a year to the Australian economy through the tourism industry alone, according to the government.
Mr Turnbull faces an election on July 2, with the latest Newspoll showing his Liberal-National coalition tied with the main opposition Labour Party.
The Reef Fund announced today would be administered by the Clean Energy Finance Corp and provide up to A$1 billion over 10 years in investment finance for projects that deliver clean energy, reduce emissions and improve water quality.