Photo: Gary Cranitch

The Great Barrier Reef has an asset value of $56 billion, supports 64,000 jobs and contributes $6.4 billion to the Australian economy each year, according to a new report by Deloitte Access Economics.

The report, commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, comes at a time when the reef has been battered by bleaching events, extreme weather events and water quality issues, and may yet see more coal transported through its waters should the Adani mine go ahead.

“There has never been a more critical time to understand precisely what the reef contributes and, therefore, what we stand to lose without it,” Great Barrier Reef Foundation chair Dr John Schubert said.

“This report makes it clear that the Great Barrier Reef is a treasure that is too big to fail. It is a call to action for us all – individuals, businesses, foundations and governments – to respond in equal measure to ensure that we don’t fail our natural wonder.”

The report says it is pertinent time to understand the value of nature in monetary terms.

“Valuing nature in monetary terms can effectively inform policy settings and help industry, government, the scientific community and the wider public understand the contribution of the environment, or in this case the Great Barrier Reef, to the economy and society.”

The report, though, notes that valuation isn’t implying that the reef can be commodified, nor that it should be privatised.

“Because it is a public good, it would not be better protected in a private market environment. Valuation is about the GBR’s relative contribution to our wellbeing; like air or food, it is something upon which life depends.”

The report covers the economic, social, “icon” and brand value of the reef, though does not include estimates of the value Traditional Owners place on the reef due to difficulties in determining monetary value, though says “its significance and qualitative value is demonstrated”.

Direct jobs supported by the reef has been estimated at 39,000, mostly through tourism. This is more than twice the number of jobs in the Australian oil and gas extraction industries. Queensland’s coal jobs has also been estimated at just 20,000 and falling.

The asset value of the reef, broken down, is estimated at $29 billion in value for visiting tourists; $24 billion for Australians who have not yet visited, but value knowing it exists, and $3 billion in value to the recreational users of the reef.

Former US vice-president Al Gore, who is headlining July’s Ecocity World Summit in Melbourne, said the report was a timely and holistic view of the economic value provided by the reef.

“Any failure to protect this indispensable natural resource would have profound impacts not only to Australia but around the world,” he said.

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  1. An inspired initiative to bring home the inherent merits of advanced capital accounting for decision makers.
    It is to be hoped that in the not-too-distant future, treasury will be required to report on more than just the economic ledger – e.g. keep accounts for the social and environmental ledgers as well as being able to track the transfers between them.
    We certainly have a good initial base of data and expertise to make this happen.

    1. India doesn’t actually need our coal with the rapid advancement of solar and its falling prices. This is simply coal barons trying to extract the last possible dollar from a failing asset class. And they know they have to be quick.

  2. Additional dangers to the GBR with 100s of Adani coal ships passing through the reefto fetch the coal, one error and a grounding, like a Chinese ship that ran aground on the GBR, would be a massive environmental disaster.