Great Barrier Reef protection in spotlight in Mackay

The importance of protecting the Great Barrier Reef is being highlighted in the Mackay region today, where Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch is meeting with local canegrowers and stakeholders.

Minister Enoch is also visiting local canegrower Tony Bugeja’s farm, and is meeting with other innovative canegrowers, to see first hand how their farming practices are protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

“Today’s visit is all about discussing how the Government and farmers can work together to protect the Great Barrier Reef,” she said.

“The Palaszczuk Government recognises that this is an issue farmers and people in the region care about.

“Our Government’s proposed reef regulations that are currently before Queensland Parliament are about striking the right balance between protecting the Great Barrier Reef while supporting farmers to improve profitability and productivity,” Ms Enoch said.

“The laws are also about protecting and supporting the more than 60,000 jobs that rely on the health of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Minister Enoch said that science shows that intervention is needed now to protect the reef.

“There has been work to improve water quality, but unfortunately the dial has not turned fast enough.

“In order to meet the recommendations of the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce intervention is needed now to help stop water quality declining,” Ms Enoch said.

“Many farmers in the Mackay and Whitsundays region have already done amazing work to reduce run-off and improve water quality as part of the voluntary industry-led Smartcane Best Management Practice program.

“The Palaszczuk Government has committed more than $6 million as part of the voluntary best management practice program.”

Ms Enoch said Mr Bugeja’s farm, and other innovative practices being used by canefarmers in the region, were a great step towards protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

Mr Bugeja said when you change your farming practices, there was not only environmental gain, but there was also economic gain as well from introducing efficiencies.

“It’s great that the Minister is coming to listen to us – I really appreciate that,” he said.

Ms Enoch said it was important to get the right balance between protecting the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland’s $20 billion agriculture and food industries.

“For more than two years, our Government has been consulting with a range of stakeholders, including farmers and conservation groups, on the new reef regulations and I thank everyone for their input and collaboration,” she said.

“We will continue to support voluntary efforts through our record $330 million investment in the Reef, with $261 million of this going to water quality programs, but we also need regulation to drive progress towards the targets that will create long-term change.

“The latest scientific consensus statement shows intervention is needed now to protect the reef.”

Jane Waterhouse, one of the lead authors of the 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement and a Reef water quality scientist at TropWATER James Cook University said the science was clear.

“Key Great Barrier Reef ecosystems continue to be in poor health and poor water quality is a major driver of this condition. The best available science shows the main cause of this is nutrient and sediment run-off from agriculture in Reef catchments.

“The science also shows that the uptake of improved farming practices has been too slow and not widespread enough to meet the Reef water quality targets necessary for a healthy Reef.”

Ms Enoch said, if passed in parliament, the provisions of Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 would be introduced progressively over three years and farmers would be supported to implement the changes with a $10.1 million rebate scheme.

In Mackay today, Minister Enoch is also meeting with the Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership about the soon-to-be-released Mackay-Whitsunday-Isaac regional waterways report card as well as the Traditional Owner Reference Group for Reef Catchments Mackay-Whitsunday-Isaac.

“The Palaszczuk Government provided $260,000 for the Mackay Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership last year to enable the partnership to carry on its great work in improving the health of local waterways in the Mackay Whitsunday region,” Ms Enoch said.

/Public Release. View in full here.