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Reef research future looks bright with $15m Labor funding pledge for CQUniversity

Published:07 January 2022

L-R: Gladstone Mayor Cr Matt Burnett, CMERC Director Associate Professor Emma Jackson, CQUniversity Chancellor John Abbott, CQUniversity Associate Vice-President Gladstone region Luke Sinclair and CQUniversity Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Nick Klomp

The Southern Great Barrier Reef may soon be home to one of the world’s premier marine research centres, with Federal Labor pledging $15 million today to a CQUniversity facility in Gladstone.

CQUniversity Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Nick Klomp, said the funding pledge would allow for the completion of the Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC), which is already conducting world-class research into seagrass restoration and other critical reef ecosystem projects.

“The Southern Great Barrier Reef is home to a multi-billion-dollar blue economy, where marine ecosystems co-exist with shipping, fisheries, tourism, agriculture and other key industries,” Professor Klomp said.

“As Gladstone’s tertiary education institution, CQUniversity has a critical role to play in ensuring our research efforts contribute to the future sustainability of the reef, in collaboration with the many other industries that contribute to the economic vibrancy of the region.

“I am grateful to Federal Labor for today’s funding pledge, which will help CQUniversity to realise the full extent of our research vision for CMERC and the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

“CQUniversity has already committed $6.6m over five years to establish CMERC, including leasing a strategically significant site in the Gladstone Marina precinct and recruiting leading researchers.

“Today’s pledge from Federal Labor will allow us to realise the full extent of our plans for CMERC, which include purchasing essential research equipment and completing the fit-out of the $21.6m Centre.”

The funding pledge, if realised, will be invested in critical research infrastructure including:

  • a purpose-built mud crab fishery research facility,
  • a seaweed hatchery to support research into seaweed mariculture,
  • a submarine remote operated vehicle for subtidal research and seagrass restoration, and
  • an island-based field research base for remote trials.

“Independent research conducted by Deloitte Access Economics found that CMERC, once fully funded, would contribute $150m to the economy over 20 years,” Professor Klomp said.

“That will be a massive boon to Gladstone and surrounding regions, not to mention the incalculable benefit to the environmental health of the reef over the long term.

“CQUniversity has enjoyed fantastic community and industry support for this project, as well as benefitting from direct collaboration with Gidarjil Development Corporation for stewardship of sea country.

“I encourage all sides of politics to throw their support behind the completion of the CMERC project, to help secure an environmentally and economically bright future for the Southern Great Barrier Reef.”