Time for State Government to stop pointing finger at agriculture

AgForce has welcomed new statistics which reveal the Great Barrier Reef is “alive and well” – and is calling on the State Government to stop unfairly targeting agriculture with its flawed and outdated science.

The report, released this week from The Australian Institute of Marine Science, shows increases in hard coral across 85 per cent of the reefs surveyed year on year – some of the best coral coverage in years – and attributes this to respite from severe weather events over the past year.

AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said this latest assessment served as further evidence that runoff from agriculture was not destroying the Reef at all, and that the State Government had been relying on science fiction – not science – to unfairly point the finger at the farming community.

“For years we have had to listen to outlandish claims from the Department of Environment and Science that the Reef is being destroyed by runoff from agricultural pesticides,” he said.

“Time and again they have ignored the data showing pesticides are in such low concentrations on the Reef that they generally can’t be measured, even with the most ultra-sensitive scientific equipment, and all the while farmers been forced to defend themselves while fighting a raft of new crippling Reef regulations.

“Now these latest findings prove we were right all along – our farmers are not destroying the Reef – the Reef is alive and well.”

According to statistics, in the Reef’s northern region, hard coral coverage increased to 27 per cent – near its recorded high of 30 per cent in 1988 – from its lowest level of 14 per cent in the 2018-19 survey report.

The central region is now at 26 per cent, up from its low of 12 per cent in 2018-19, and the southern region was found to have 39 per cent hard coral coverage – up from 23 per cent in 2019.

The report comes as UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meets this week to consider whether the Reef should be formally declared “in danger”.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley will use the findings in her final push to lobby committee members against ratifying the draft ruling on Friday.

AgForce has long since questioned whether the Reef really is in danger or if there are other motivations behind the Government’s cries.

AgForce Reef Taskforce Chair Alex Stubbs likened the saga to the children’s fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

“It’s a case of The Minister who Cried Reef,” he said.

“These new figures prove the Government was crying ‘Reef’ all along.

“They also highlight the need for an independently run Office of Science Quality Assurance to to check the validity of the science underpinning all Government policies – not just Reef.”

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