The Palaszczuk Government is making several key commitments about the Reef regulations that are currently before Queensland Parliament, following calls from the agricultural sector.
Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch today committed to four new elements relating to the Great Barrier Reef legislation, which are being debated today.
“We are taking action to protect the Great Barrier Reef and the thousands of jobs that it supports,” Minister Enoch said.
“The laws before Parliament will help improve the quality of water flowing into the Reef, which science is showing continues to be a major threat to the Reef’s health.
“The changes I have announced today follow extensive consultation with industry, stakeholders and Palaszczuk Government Members of Parliament,” Minister Enoch said.
“The Palaszczuk Government has made a commitment to not switch on the regulations in Cape York within three years as planned, as the catchment is already meeting its sediment and particulate nutrient reduction targets through voluntary action.
“These are great results, and is what we want other regions to strive for,” Ms Enoch said.
Minister Enoch said the Palaszczuk Government was also committing to no further changes to the minimum standards in the regulations, once they have commenced, for five years.
“Stakeholders have indicated their concerns that the minimum standards could be changed at any time, but our Government is ensuring the industry can have certainty going forward.
“As such, we will be doing what stakeholders and the local MPs have been asking for, and commit to not making any further changes to the minimum standards for at least five years once they are finalised later in the year.
“I note the LNP has been out there spreading misinformation about this, but the truth is, if the standards are significantly amended after this time, the law requires that this would only be done after public consultation and consideration of the costs and benefits of the change.”
Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert welcomed the change.
“This is something I lobbied the Minister for, on behalf of farmers in my community, and I’m glad we’ve got this result,” she said.
The third commitment will be that the government will be making changes to the proposed thresholds for new cropping environmental authorities, which will ensure a simplified application process for farms less than 100 hectares and for banana growers who are relocating due to TR4 Panama disease.
“This is as a direct result of concerns raised by groups including Queensland Farmers Federation, Australian Banana Growers Council and Canegrowers,” Minister Enoch said.
“If farmers are starting or expanding a cropping or horticultural activity on land without a cropping history, they will now only need to apply for an environmental authority if the property is larger than five hectares. Previously, the proposed threshold was two hectares.
“We’ve also expanded the size of farm that can proceed with standard conditions from 30 hectares, which was originally proposed, to 100 hectares. This means most cropping on new land will be able to use a streamlined process and only the largest enterprises will require a site-specific assessment with tailored conditions.
“This streamlined application process will also apply to banana growers who are relocating due to TR4 Panama disease, regardless of the size of the property.
“Once again, this is a good outcome for the industry.”
Another aspect of the regulatory package that we are committing to change, following consultation, is the regulation about additional data.
While the Bill is not being amended, the Government will not be making a regulation about data collection at this stage and instead will seek to work voluntarily with industry to collect relevant data.
For the last decade, the Queensland Government has supported agricultural industries to voluntarily improve their practices to help improve run-off.
“But unfortunately, the uptake of these voluntary practices has not been fast enough, and water quality has not improved,” Minister Enoch said.
“The standards that are in the legislation are already approved and accepted by industry – the regulations will ensure these standards will be the minimum for everyone to follow.
“But it is clear from the science that we need to accelerate the uptake of improved practices, to ensure the Reef has the best chance at survival.
“The new regulations are not aimed at those who are already meeting their industry’s minimum standards. In fact, those who are already accredited under their own industry’s standards will be able to have their hard work recognised under this legislation.
“They are aimed at ensuring those farmers who are not yet on track will accelerate their progress.
“These measures are based on the best available science and will help protect the Reef and also be a major driver in improving agricultural efficiency in the state.”