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New laws to improve water quality

September 19, 2019

The Great Barrier Reef is a natural icon, and we need to ensure it is protected. The Reef also contributes $6 billion to the economy and 60,000 jobs rely on the reef’s health.

This is why the Palaszczuk Government is taking action to ensure it is protected now and into the future. The laws that passed in Parliament recently, will help improve the quality of water flowing into the Reef – which science shows continues to be a major threat to the Reef’s health. The legislation is underpinned by regulations, which will be finalised later in the year.

Two scientific reports have been released recently that shows water quality continues to threaten the Reef. This included the Reef Water Quality Report Card 2017 and 2018 a joint report between the Federal and Queensland Governments, and the Outlook Report, which was released by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

The Report Card contained the latest science on Reef’s water quality and showed that the overall marine condition is poor.
It also shows that there are many farmers doing good work to reduce run off – and we need this to continue.

The science supports the work of both the State and Federal Government which underpins the joint Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.

The Queensland LNP might want to play farmers off against industries which rely on a healthy reef, but we are pursuing a solution which will work for both.

Reef regulations
For the last decade, the Queensland Government has supported agricultural industries to voluntarily improve their practices to help improve run-off.

 Since 2012, the Queensland Government has provided the agricultural sector around $110 million to improve water quality and support productive and profitable industries. Of this, $55 million went to the cane sector.

Unfortunately, the uptake of these voluntary practices has not been fast enough, and water quality has not improved. To put this in perspective, only 11% of Queensland cane farmers are accredited under the current voluntary program. This represents 23% - less than a quarter – of the total cane farming area.

In addition, compliance visits to farms are showing more than half of those visited across Queensland are not compliant with current minimum standards for run-off. However, these rates improve following consultation, with almost 20% becoming compliant once that process occurs.

We have been consulting on these changes for more than two years, through a dedicated advisory group, with input from both Agforce and Canegrowers.

Our laws will give the Great Barrier Reef the best chance of survival and focus on reducing run-off from agriculture and direct sources of pollution from intensive land uses, such as sewage treatment plants, aquaculture and mining.

It is concerning there is misinformation out there about these proposed regulations. The truth is that the new legislation is based on industry’s already-existing Best Management Practices, and we want to make these already-agreed practices the minimum for everyone.

Best Management Practices Uptake – Regional Breakdown
Burnett Mary - There are 13 accredited BMP farmers in the Burnett Mary region. This is 3% of the total cane farmers in the region or 8% of the area under cane in the region.

Dry Tropics - There are 39 accredited BMP farmers in the Dry Tropics region/Burdekin district. This is 7% out of the total cane farmers in the region or 20% of the area under cane in the region.

Mackay Whitsundays -There are 71 accredited BMP farmers in the Mackay Whitsundays region. This is 7% out of the total cane farmers in the region or 10% of the area under cane in the region.

Wet Tropics - There are 275 accredited BMP farmers in the Wet Tropics region. This is 20% out of the total cane farmers in the region or 40% of the area under cane in the region.

Total (Reef Catchments) - There are 398 accredited Smartcane BMP farmers in Reef Catchments. This is 11% out of all cane farmers across Reef Catchments or 23% of the area under cane in Queensland.