Media Release ·

56 billion reasons to value the Great Barrier Reef

56 billion reasons to value the Great Barrier Reef

A new Deloitte Access Economics report has calculated the total asset value of the Great Barrier Reef to be $56 billion, assessing the World Heritage site’s economic, social and iconic brand value together in one study for the first time.

In the report commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation with support from National Australia Bank and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Deloitte Access Economics analysed the Reef’s:

  • Economic, social, and iconic value;
  • Contribution to the economy through industry value added and employment;
  • Brand value to Australia and the international community; and
  • Significance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Director Steve Sargent said: “Like the Great Barrier Reef itself, the numbers revealed in the report are big and highlight just how significant the Reef’s contribution to Australia’s economy is:

  • $56 billion value as an economic, social, and iconic natural asset;
  •  $6.4 billion economic value added to the Australian economy in 2015-16;
  •  $3.9 billion in economic value added to Queensland’s economy in 2015-16;
  • $2.9 billion economic value added to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP) region in 2015-16; and
  • 64,000 jobs nationally linked to the Reef, including 33,000 in Queensland.”

“At $29 billion, tourism is the biggest contributor to the Reef’s $56 billion value, followed by $23.8 billion from indirect or non-use value, i.e. those who haven’t yet visited the Reef but value knowing it exists, and its value to recreational users ($3.2 billion) makes up the balance,” Mr Sargent said.

“As the largest living structure on Earth and one of the world’s most complex and diverse natural ecosystems, the Great Barrier Reef is justifiably considered priceless and irreplaceable.

“Alongside its important environmental and ecological function, this report demonstrates that the Reef also offers substantial value to Australia and the world in terms of the economic activity it generates and the employment and experiences it supports across the tourism, fishing, recreation and scientific industries.

“The Reef added $6.4 billion to the national economy in 2015-16 and supported more than 64,000 full time jobs making it a bigger ‘employer’ than many well-known Australian companies including National Australia Bank, Qantas and Telstra.

“The study also confirms that no single Australian natural asset contributes as much in terms of brand and iconic value to international perceptions of ‘Brand Australia’.

“At $56 billion, the Reef is valued at more than 12 Sydney Opera Houses!

“This report sends a clear message that the Great Barrier Reef – as an ecosystem, as an economic driver, as a global treasure – is too big to fail.”

The report calculates the Reef’s total economic, social and icon value by adding the benefits accrued to those who directly use the Great Barrier Reef – for recreation, fishing, science or as tourists – and the value attributed by people for its existence, its iconic stature or so it can be there for future generations.

This is the first time a natural asset’s brand value has been assessed in this way and considered as part of the overall asset value.

The Deloitte Access Economics analysis included a survey of 1500 Australian and international respondents from 10 countries which found that people value the Reef for a range of reasons – some more concrete, such as its importance for tourism, and some more abstract, such as beliefs that Australia would just not be the same without it.

Two-thirds of the survey respondents were prepared to pay to protect the Reef, based on its importance to the planet, a belief that future generations should be able to visit it, its importance to biodiversity, and feelings that it is morally and ethically right to pay for its protection.

“The Reef’s remarkable asset value and annual economic contribution points very strongly to the need for all of us to do all we can to protect its future – as citizens, as business leaders and across all levels of government,” Mr Sargent said.

“This report is a critical step toward truly understanding what’s at stake, as most of us can’t, and don’t want to, imagine a world without the Great Barrier Reef.”

Deloitte Access Economics partner and lead report author John O’Mahony said: “The Great Barrier Reef is clearly so much more than the world’s largest living structure, and by every measure it’s seen as the natural asset that contributes most powerfully to Australia’s global brand.

“Of course it’s priceless and irreplaceable, but we’ve been able to look at it as an ‘asset’ that has incredible value on multiple fronts – from its biodiversity and job creating potential to its support for critical industries and standing among international visitors to Australia, and even those who have never been there.

“With the Reef under threat, our report is a major step in looking to value nature’s significance in monetary terms and using this information to help inform what we do to protect and save important natural assets.”

National Australia Bank State Director Government, Education, Community, Rachel O’Neill said: “Fifty-six billion is an extraordinary contribution to our economy and that there is such a strong dependency of a healthy reef on such a large number of businesses and jobs means it is imperative that we understand the value and the linkages. It is vital that society understands just how important the Reef is so we can address the threats.”

About the report

The Deloitte Access Economics report was commissioned by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation with support from National Australia Bank and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The report draws on various data sources including the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Tourism Research Australia, other government agencies, and a new survey of 1500 Australian and international respondents from 10 countries. It uses a variety of economic techniques including input-output tables, econometrics, willingness to pay analysis, sensitivity analysis and the Brand Asset Valuator. During six months of research over 80 economic, scientific and other resources were consulted.

Further enquiries:

Great Barrier Reef Foundation

Louise Sturgess

Communication Manager

T: + 61 7 3064 0880  

M: +61 0409 352 493 


Deloitte Access Economics

Simon Rushton

Corporate Affairs & Communications

T:  +61 2 9322 5562

M:  +61 0 450 530 748


About the Great Barrier Reef Foundation

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation is the lead charity for the Great Barrier Reef, dedicated exclusively to funding solutions through science, technology, engineering and on-ground action to ensure its long-term conservation. Since 2000, the Foundation has been an independent catalyst for protecting the Reef, leading the collaboration of business, industry, government, science, philanthropy and community to deliver projects specifically targeted to develop an increasingly adaptable and resilient Reef – one that can withstand environmental and man-made threats.

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