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The Great Barrier Reef Foundation may be forced to return nearly half a billion dollars

When a foundation with six full-time staff receives nearly half a billion dollars in government funding, alarms understandably start to ring.

But that was the situation Aussies were faced with in April this year when it was announced that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and the Australian Government were set to become parties in a “$444 million partnership”.

Despite the fact you’d have to be willfully ignorant to think the Great Barrier Reef doesn’t need a great deal of financial love to stop it from further deteriorating, eyebrows were understandably raised at this situation, with Labor frontbencher Tony Burke calling the situation “completely unprecedented”.

“A small foundation that employs six people walks into a meeting with the Prime Minister and having not asked for any money, walks away with a commitment of nearly half a billion dollars to do core work that previously had always been done by the department of the environment,” Burke told ABC’s Insiders.

Tina Alderson, project lead on Raine island Recovery Project, is set to share her experience and insights on 16 -19 July as Cairns plays host to the Great Barrier Reef Restoration Symposium. The Foundation played a leading role to initiate the Raine Island Recovery project. This five year, $7.95M collaboration between BHP, the Queensland Government, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, the Wuthathi Nation and Kemer Kemer Meriam Nation (Ugar, Mer, Erub) Traditional Owners with the Foundation are protecting and restoring the island's critical habitat to ensure the future of key marine species including green turtles (nam – the common language word for turtle), seabirds and other marine species. 📸 @garycranitchphotography . . @bhpqldnsw @GreatBarrierReefMarinePark @queenslandgovernment @qldnationalparks @andrewjohndunstan #raineisland #IYOR #lovethereef #IYOR #speakers #talk #nature #conservation #reef

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Now there is rising pressure on the government, and particularly the prime minister, to reveal what happened in an April 9 meeting between Malcolm Turnbull, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, and John Schubert, the chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

It certainly didn’t clear up any problems that the foundation has support from the likes of BHP, Rio Tinto, Shell and Orica, while Schubert is the former Commonwealth Bank of Australia chairman.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten has described the situation as “a developing scandal”.

“Most Australians would be shocked to learn this prime minister personally just walks into a meeting and hands over nearly half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money without a moment’s thought,” Mr Shorten said.

A Senate inquiry has been established to investigate the process of the money being allocated, with suggestions the government broke its own rules on allocating money because there was no tender process.

The 'Sun Shield' prevents 30% of light from reaching the coral reef. Dr Andrew Negri is a part of the research team behind the 'reef sun shield' which presents an innovative solution to combat coral bleaching at a local scale. Dr Negri is one of the more than 100 speakers at the Great Barrier Reef Restoration Symposium in Cairns on 16-19 July. You can still register! The Symposium forms part of the work of the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP), a collaboration between @AIMS, @CSIRO, @jcuonline @qut @uq @greatbrrierreefmarinepark @greatbarrierreeffoundation . . . @tiffanyandco @aims @unimelb @queenslandgovernment #restorethereef2018 #lovethereef #IYOR #sun #shield

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Regardless, the foundation’s managing director, Anna Marsden, said she is comfortable with how the money was allocated.

“There’s no doubt this latest investment is a paradigm shift in the amount of money that can be spent on coral conversation,” Marsden told the ABC.

“The threats and challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef have entered into a new era in the last two years.

“This money is going to shift the needle on the health of the reef.”

About the author

Joe was Junior Vice-President at Compu-Global-Hyper-Mega-Net until it was bought out by Bill Gates. He now subedits for Conversant Media and considers it a step up.

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