The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Foundation has treated banking and mining executives to a tropical getaway on Hamilton Island.
It comes after the Foundation learned it was receiving a $444 million grant from the Government.
The getaway, dubbed the “Chairman’s Panel Weekend” was hosted at a luxury Hamilton Island resort with the pretence that executives were meeting with experts and scientists who were working on preserving the Great Barrier Reef.
However, the trip included lavish accommodations and expensive meals as well a yacht trips and snorkelling tours.
The weekend trip was attended by high profile affiliates who had paid the $20,000 membership fee, including JP Morgan, BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, AGL, Boral and Shell to name a few.
25% of the membership fee was set aside to pay for the Hamilton Island trip, rather than making sure every cent was used to help protect the reef.
The original decision to grant the $444 million has been defended by the Coalition who has said the particular foundation was chosen because of its ability to leverage money from private investors.
However, the luxury weekend has raised eyebrows in Canberra, particularly with Tony Burke, the Shadow Environment Minister. Mr Burke said that the money raised should be committed to the reef and not on treats for investors.
He said that it was clear that the money was being spent “on trips that make donors happy” and not on “protecting the reef”.
A spokesperson for the GBR foundation said that not all members went on the trip as well as declaring that they had no control over the projects funded by the foundation.
They said that all of the costs of the trip were paid for “via their membership” and that no extra money was used.
However, the GBR Foundation has a charitable status, meaning that much of the $20,000 membership fee will be tax-deductible.