Canegrowers welcome talks on Reef protection

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Bundaberg Canegrowers will be represented at a parliamentary committee hearing on Friday to discuss proposed legislation to further protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Manager of Bundaberg Canegrowers Dale Holliss said growers looked forward to outlining why proposed Reef regulations are unjustifiable in the Burnett Mary Region.

“The fact is we are outside the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park,” Mr Holliss said.

“The southernmost point of the reef is about 100km north of the Kolan, Burnett and Mary catchments where we grow cane.

“More importantly, because of the southerly direction of East Australian Current it is physically impossible for any of our runoff to affect the reef.”

Mr Holliss pointed to a long track record of the region's growers participating in voluntary programs aimed at improving farming practices and delivering environmental, social and economic benefits to the region.

“This was recognised by the State Government in 2009 when we were exempted from the legislation brought in at that time,” Mr Holliss said.

“We work closely with the Burnett Mary Regional NRM Group and have staff with environmental, agronomic and irrigation qualifications to help our growers meet their duty of care requirements.

“There is no scientific or environmental justification to include this region and it is an unnecessary cost to the public purse and to the growers in the region.”

Mr Holliss said the contribution of cane growing to sediment and nutrient export was minimal due to the adoption of trash retention and other best practices.

“At least 70 per cent of our runoff goes through a settling pond before it leaves the farm and 80 per cent of our farms have nutrient management plans,” he said.

According to Mr Holliss, including the Brisbane, Nerang and Murray Darling Basin catchments would make about as much sense and provide as much benefit to the Reef.

Chair of Parliament's 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.”

  • 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.

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