The Great Barrier Reef will receive a $500 million (€312 million) funding boost to restore water quality and protect the coral from attack by starfish, government ministers in Australia have announced.

Australian Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said that some of the money would go directly to farmers to modify their practices, and for scientific research to build more resilient coral.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said regional countries looked to Australia's example as a world leader in reef management, as the government's 2050 Plan was approved by the World Heritage Committee as being a standard for the rest of the world to follow.

"They look to Australia to provide the technical expertise the scientific research, and to give the best practice management of coral reefs and that's what we demonstrate," she told reporters from Cairns on Australia's east coast

A major outbreak of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish has been destroying areas of the world heritage listed reef, prompting a major cull in January.

The outbreak has hit the reef after two consecutive years of major coral bleaching.

UNESCO considered putting it on the "in danger" list last year due to recent widespread destruction but voted against it,allowing Australia's conservative government to dodge political embarrassment and potential damage to the country's tourism industry.

The Great Barrier Reef, which can be seen from space, covers 348,000sq/km and was world heritage listed in 1981 as the most extensive and spectacular coral reef ecosystem on the planet, according to the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) website.

Agricultural run-off from sugar cane farms and cattle stations has also harmed the section of reef that is closest to shore, according to Bradley Opdike, a marine scientist at the Australian National University.

"What happens with the sediment is it just smothers it,while higher nutrients cause algae to out-compete the corals," he said. 

While the funding announcement was welcomed by scientists,some were sceptical on whether it would actually help.
Jon Brodie, a professor at James Cook University's Coral Reef Studies Centre of Excellence said the funding was an extension of existing failed programmmes.
"It's not working, it's not achieving major water quality improvements," he said.