Queensland’s environment minister has flagged concerns that the agency tasked with protecting the Great Barrier Reef is running as a “shell of its former self” amid the underfunding of a cornerstone program.Steven Miles called on the federal government to fast-track an extra $1.65m for the main “on-water” management program for the reef, which had seen no increase to its funding since 2008.

This was despite the program, run by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, holding the key to almost a third of Australia’s 139-point action plan to conserve the threatened area, Miles said.

Australia is due next month to lodge a progress report on its conservation plan with Unesco, which last year spared the reef an “in danger” listing by its world heritage committee.

The Unesco ruling called on Australia last year to enact a long-term “investment framework” for reef conservation as “a matter of priority”.

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