Farmers oppose new Reef regulations


A public hearing to discuss proposed environmental legislation to further protect the Great Barrier Reef will be held in Bundaberg on Friday, 12 April.

It comes as a petition was launched online to “#RejectTheRegs“.

Chair of the Innovation, Tourism Development and Environment Committee, Duncan Pegg MP, has invited community members, local businesses and industry groups directly impacted by the Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, to have their say.

The Bill aims to help protect the Great Barrier Reef by regulating water quality across all Reef catchments, focusing on limiting nutrient and sediment runoff from agricultural and other environmentally relevant activities.

“It is important that we hear from individuals and organisations who would be directly impacted by the proposed changes to law,” Mr Pegg said.

“Poor water quality has been shown to have significant adverse impacts for the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

“Measures to improve water quality were recommended by the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce and are essential for Queensland to meet its water quality targets under the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan.

“This Bill aims to protect Queensland’s natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef, by improving water quality so that the reef can remain a global icon for generations to come.”

Sugarcane growers oppose the legislation, saying it won't improve Reef protection but will add extra red tape.

They've welcomed the opportunity to make submissions to the committee.

In a hearing at Brisbane, the Canegrowers organisation told the committee that the Government’s proposed laws on farming in Great Barrier Reef catchments include a massive power grab.

Chairman Paul Schembri and chief executive Dan Galligan attended.

Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri and chief executive Dan Galligan. Farmers oppose new Reef regulations
Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri and chief executive Dan Galligan at Parliament House in Brisbane. Source: Canegrowers

“Our submission highlights that this Bill would hand broad powers to the Department of Environment and Science’s chief executive to change minimum cane farming standards in any way at any time with no regard for the impacts on growers or their communities,” Mr Galligan said after the hearing.

“There is no mechanism for challenge or review, no requirement for the changes to be based on science or evidence.

“Essentially the government will hand bureaucrats in Brisbane the power to shift the goal posts on cane growers again and again and again.

“This was never part of any consultations held with industry to date and puts Canegrowers members in a dangerous and vulnerable position.”

Mr Schembri told the Committee that most cane growers had been working under reef water quality regulations since 2009 and there was no need for changes.

“We take our environmental responsibility seriously,” he said.

“Australian cane growers are recognised as world leaders in every international industry forum for our innovation and sustainable practices – yet when we return home our credentials are considered second-rate.”

In five years 70 per cent of the cane industry’s land footprint has voluntarily become involved in a program of best practice called Smartcane BMP which is supported by the Queensland Government.

“This program is delivering environmental outcomes while also positioning us as certified suppliers of sustainable sugar to a market that wants,” Mr Schembri said.

“We don’t need more bureaucratic interference when, as an industry, we are achieving good progress with programs that acknowledge, respect and work with us.

“The big risk with the government’s heavy-handed approach is that growers will throw their hands up in the air and give up.”

Online petition launched

An online petition has been started, calling on MPs to “reject the regs”.

“By signing the petition, you will send a clear message to the members of the Queensland Parliament that they should reject this Bill. The way forward for agriculture and the Reef is through cooperation and engagement, building on world-leading best practice management programs which are already under way,” the petition's web page states.

  • The Bundaberg hearing will be at the Burnett Riverside Hotel on Friday, 12 April from 11am to 1.30pm. People wishing to attend are asked to register interest.
  • Minister meets canegrowers.