The unique values of Australia's Great Barrier Reef (GBR) are under threat from environmental change and the unforeseen, cumulative consequences of coastal development. Development decisions are underpinned by Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) but these are plagued by inconsistent methods and a lack of independent evaluation, leading to perceptions of inadequate scientific rigor. To be credible and effective, EIAs should be subject to independent peer review, the yardstick applied in the normal process of science.