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Reef Awards 2015

The Australian Government Reef Programme Awards 2015

The Reef Programme Awards 2015 – Since 2008, agricultural industry groups, regional natural resource management bodies and rural land managers have been delivering the Reef Programme formerly Reef Rescue, an innovative program which integrates incentives, agricultural extension to improve the adoption of agricultural practices that deliver water quality benefits in the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon catchments.  The Reef Programme Awards are an opportunity to acknowledge land managers who have contributed to Reef Programme outcomes.

The Reef Programme Awards are an initiative of the Reef Alliance partnership including Queensland Farmers’ Federation, Queensland Regional Groups Collective, peak agricultural industry bodies, regional natural resource management groups and the conservation sector.

The awards were made to an individual or enterprise involved in primary production who implements innovative or best management activities to enhance water quality outcomes for the Great Barrier Reef.

The Reef Programme Awards were presented 1 September 2015 in Caloundra, Queensland.


Reef Programme Sugarcane Grower Award

Cane- Mark PresslerWinner: Hill End Farms Pty Ltd – Mark and Brian Pressler from Kalkie near Bundaberg

Hill End Farms identified the risks that their operation was potentially contributing to water quality with the help of Sugar Services agronomists via a Farm Risk Assessment Plan in 2010. This started Mark and Brian Pressler on a five year improvement pathway.  The benefits they have measured through practice change are that nutrients are retained within the rooting zone. The lack of runoff also means that there is very little potential for sediment, nutrients and other farm inputs to leave the property. Hill End Farms has completed industry program Smartcane BMP module Irrigation and Drainage Management and have through self-assessment shown that their farming enterprise is above industry standard.

Runner Up: Gerard Puglisi from Mossman

As a fourth generation cane farmer, Gerard wants to make sure he manages the land sustainably and keep soil, fertiliser and pesticides on his paddock—and not in the Great Barrier Reef. Thanks to government support, Gerard has been able to do this. And these efforts are starting to pay off, with evidence showing water quality is improving. By reducing his fertilizer run-off, he is helping to prevent more frequent outbreaks of crown of thorns starfish, one of the biggest impacts on the reef. Gerard is proud to be working to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

Reef Programme Horticulturalist Award

Horticulture- Craig and Jade 2015 photo

Winner: Craig and Jade Buchanan from Innisfail

Jade and Craig Buchanan are great ambassadors for the banana industry as well as highlighting the positive influence programmes such as Reef Programme have had for growers. They ead by example by very actively and enthusiastically implementing best practice approaches to all their farming activities and sharing their knowledge and experiences. Their drive and commitment contribute significantly to the local community and the industry. They are always reaching out and teaching others in the industry and over the years have held workshops and encouraged many farm visits to share their learnings and promote Best Management Practices.

Runner Up: Eric Coleman from Gracemere

The family farming operation grows sweet potatoes, followed by a number of green manure crops, on two holdings at Gracemere.  To improve soil health and reduce the need for pesticides they have transitioned to giving the land more rest from the commercial crops, ie a longer fallow period.  Following a sweet potato crop, the land is fallowed for about 18 to 24 months, in which time a rotational/green manure crop of forage sorghum, oats or triticale is grown. The green manure crop is used to suppress weeds and volunteer sweet potatoes and also to improve organic matter levels to encourage antagonistic fungi and predatory nematodes against root knot nematode, a major soil pest that affects sweet potatoes.

Reef Programme Dairy Farmer Award

Dairy- byrnesWinner: Dennis Byrnes from Yungaburra

Dennis is an active leader in the dairy network in Far North Queensland. Dennis’s project involved connecting liquid effluent to a solid set irrigation & travelling irrigator. The sustainable use of the liquid effluent over the farm has reduced the  reliance on fertilisers which has been a large cost saving for the farm and significantly reduced the chance of these nutrients building up in the soil and therefore reduce the potential risk of the nutrient rich water leaving the farm and entering the local water way.

Runner Up: John and Brad Blackwood from Goomboorian

The Blackwood’s project has reduced the potential risk of erosion by purchasing a minimum till planter. The farm has 66 hectares of regularly cropped land. The purchase of a minimum till planter has stopped conventional cultivation and the need for the ground to be ploughed when planting new crops or sowing pastures. This has reduced soil exposure and significantly reduced the potential risk of sediment loss. The project has enabled the farm to have close to 100% ground cover year round.

Reef Programme Grain Grower Award

Grain- Royce Staier and VIcki Horstman CHRRUP FOWinner: Royce Staier from Clermont

Royce Staier’s Cudgee Grains is a mixed farming enterprise with irrigated, dryland and cattle components of the business.  A winter and summer cropping zero-till dryland programme of wheat, chickpeas, and sorghum is grown over 2311 ha.  As a part of planning and prioritisation, Royce has recently reassessed with the Grains BMP programme to gauge practice improvements.  Royce has made a number of machinery modifications  which have clearly reduced chemical use and reduced the risk of offsite movement of residuals into streams and gullies.

Runner Up: Alan Garside from Lansdowne

Lansdowne is a mixed enterprise farming and grazing property near Capella in Queensland.  The Reef Programme has assisted farm practice change by moving from conventional to zero till farming with the purchase of a new planter which has reduced soil disturbance, increase stubble retention, and prevented the loss of valuable topsoil and moisture.  The effect of this has reduced movement of nutrients, pesticide residues, and sediments off-site, which will improve water quality flowing into the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon.

Reef Programme Grazier Award

Grazier- Amanda and Shane Watts and ChildrenWinner: Shane and Amanda Watts from Collinsville

Shane and Amanda Watts own and manage Sonoma Station, a 14,400ha property situated in the Bowen, Broken, Bogie basin, 5km south of Collinsville.  Aware that their stock were negatively impacting the waterways causing erosion and bank instability, through the Reef Programme funding they installed 100km of fencing to improve their management options. This included 37km of riparian fencing and a 36km pipeline, with 22 new off-stream watering points.  These works enabled them to protect 1,900ha of sensitive riparian vegetation.

Runner Up: Ross and Mardi Webb from Charters Towers.

In early 2011, Ross and Mardi Webb moved to Bluff Station, a 31,500 hectare property just south of Charters Towers in the upper Burdekin.  The Webb’s quickly realised that to effect ‘on ground’ change they needed to develop their property infrastructure to better manage grazing distribution.  Participating in the Reef Programme was seen as a great way to help improve groundcover, retain soil, improve the capacity of the land and at the same time contribute to protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

For further information please contact Reef Programme Awards Coordinator, Adam Knapp on or 07 3837 4747.