Minister meets canegrowers to discuss Reef protection

Georgia, Paul and Kylie Slack at the committee hearing in Bundaberg today. Source: Facebook

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch met Bundaberg Region farmers on Friday to discuss new legislation currently before Queensland Parliament.

The Minister's visit coincided with a public hearing to discuss proposed environmental legislation to further protect the Great Barrier Reef.

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

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

Ms Enoch today joined representatives from Canegrowers and the Burnett Mary Regional Group to visit two farms.

She said the State Government recognises this is an important issue.

“Our proposed reef regulations are about striking the right balance between protecting the Great Barrier Reef while supporting the farming community to improve profitability and productivity,” Ms Enoch said.

“Many farmers have already done amazing work to reduce run-off as part of the voluntary industry-led Smartcane Best Management Practice program.

“We recognise that farmers care about the Reef and are adjusting their practices to improve water quality, and that is why we have committed more than $6 million as part of the voluntary best management practice program.”

Ms Enoch said science shows that intervention is needed now to protect the Reef.

“Farmers have been doing great work in improving water quality, but unfortunately the dial has not turned fast enough,” she said.

“In order to meet the recommendations of the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce, regulatory intervention is needed now if we are going to stop water quality declining.

“In 2016, the taskforce recommended the introduction of water quality regulations across all Reef catchments. Our legislation currently before Parliament is a direct response to that recommendation.

“Science shows Queensland needs these regulations to protect the Great Barrier Reef.”

Ms Enoch said the provisions of Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 would be introduced progressively over three years.

“Under the legislation, graziers, sugarcane and banana growers, and horticulture and grains producers in that region would have three years to meet the new standards,” she said.

“The Government is also providing almost $1.5 million for a range of projects in the Burnett Mary region to help farmers reduce water pollution.

“These include programs that work intensively with canegrowers on their farm nutrient management planning, a horticulture one-on-one service, and the Better Beef for the Reef project supporting graziers to improve their land management and pastures.”