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About Reef Plan

The Reef Water Quality Protection Plan (Reef Plan) (PDF, 4.03 MB) is a collaborative program of coordinated projects and partnerships designed to improve the quality of water in the Great Barrier Reef though improved land management in reef catchments.

The plan is a joint commitment of the Australian and Queensland Governments. Its primary focus is diffuse source pollution from broadscale land use. This is pollution that comes from a wide range of different sources and cannot be directly attributed to one point of dispersal, such as a pipe or waste outlet.

Reef Plan sets ambitious but achievable targets for improved water quality and land management practices and identifies actions to improve the quality of water entering the reef. Initially established in 2003, the plan was updated in 2009 and 2013. It details specific actions and deliverables to be completed by 2018 when Reef Plan will be reviewed. Find out more about the history of Reef Plan.

The development of Reef Plan was guided by the new Scientific Consensus Statement which shows that poor water quality is continuing to have a detrimental effect on reef health.

Long term goal

  • To ensure that by 2020 the quality of water entering the reef from broadscale land use has no detrimental impact on the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.

Water quality targets (2018)

  • At least a 50 per cent reduction in anthropogenic end-of-catchment dissolved inorganic nitrogen loads in priority areas.
  • At least a 20 per cent reduction in anthropogenic end-of-catchment loads of sediment and particulate nutrients in priority areas.
  • At least a 60 per cent reduction in end-of-catchment pesticide loads in priority areas.

Land and catchment management targets (2018)

  • 90 per cent of sugarcane, horticulture, cropping and grazing lands are managed using best management practice systems (soil, nutrient and pesticides) in priority areas.
  • Minimum 70 per cent late dry season groundcover on grazing lands.
  • The extent of riparian vegetation is increased.
  • There is no net loss of the extent, and an improvement in the ecological processes and environmental values, of natural wetlands.

Guiding principles

Innovative approach

Indentify, integrate with best management practices and implement innovative practices that will deliver substantial change in anthropogenic nutrient, sediment and pesticide runoff.

Targeted approach

Continue to reduce pollutant loads, particularly by targeting water quality improvement to the highest risk pollutants in the highest risk regions.


Protect and enhance key areas of the region, including wetlands and riparian areas, which have a water quality protection function and an intrinsic value in their own right.


To help achieve Reef Plan's goals and objectives, three priority work areas and specific actions and deliverables were identified:

  • Prioritising investment and knowledge
    Prioritise, coordinate and integrate programs to maximise reef water outcomes.
  • Responding to the challenge
    Landholders adopt management systems that maximise reef water quality improvements while maintaining and enhancing resilience, business performance and environmental outcomes. Government policies and programs that support Reef Plan goals and targets are maintained.
  • Evaluating performance
    The efficiency and effectiveness of Reef Plan is measured through monitoring, evaluation and reporting.
Last updated:
27 August, 2014
Last reviewed:
25 September, 2013

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