Experience Co and Tourism Australia chair Bob East (Image: AAP/Bianca De Marchi)

The owner of China's biggest nickel mine and a company chaired by the head of Tourism Australia are among the beneficiaries of a $3.2 million scheme to "monitor" the Great Barrier Reef during the COVID-caused tourism slump.

Like much of the government’s pandemic support spending, the government is hoping funding to businesses will trickle down to help workers and the tourism industry more generally.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s website says the money is being used to pay tourism operators to monitor the health of the reef. But there is little detail about how much monitoring they have to do and how their performance will be measured. It's understood the money will primarily be spent on conducting weekly surveys and uploading photos of the reef to the Eye of the Reef app.