The rivers that drain the wet, mountainous island of New Guinea discharge about 1.5 billion tonnes/yr of sediments into the adjacent seas, including the foreland basin between New Guinea and Australia. Despite this huge sediment input, there appears to have been only limited deposition in the Gulf of Papua during the (Holocene) postglacial rise in sea level. Seismic and core data indicate that the transgressive systems tract in the Gulf of Papua is thin and patchy. It is confined to regions within and north of an incised, east-west-trending shelf-valley system. Of the possible explanations for the absence of a significant transgressive systems tract, inland storage and along- and off-shelf transport of the sediment are of greatest significance. Reef growth up to the latitude of the east-west-trending incised-valley system in the southern Gulf of Papua is considered to have been facilitated by a northward-flowing coastal boundary current, the Coral Sea Coastal Current. This current now sweeps turbid, brackish waters and terrigenous sediments discharged by the rivers northwards away from the reefs. An observed northward offset in transgressive sediments in relation to the axis of the shelf valleys suggests that such a northward.flowing shelf current operated during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. The northern limit of the Great Barrier Reef could thus be controlled by the balance between fluvial sediment supply and northward advection of suspended sediment by the Coral Sea Coastal Current. This current may also be important in maintaining a supply of clear water to the eastern Gulf of Papua, thus enabling photosynthesis and the flourishing of calcareous-algae ( Halimeda ) bioherms or biostromes at depths of up to 100 m over much of the middle and outer shelf, directly offshore of the modern Fly Delta. These carbonate sediments represent the exposed maximum flooding surface and condensed section. Modern highstand delta deposits have begun to prograde over this layer on the inner shelf.