2018 is the third International Year of the Reef – an International Coral Reef Initiative campaign that occurs roughly every 10 years. As an Australian icon, the Great Barrier Reef is firmly fixed in people’s minds, particularly Queenslanders, and there is a lot of work going on to ensure farming has a strong and sustainable future alongside the reef.
Last week, more than 200 Australian and international biologists, social scientists, statisticians, engineers and marine experts met in Cairns for the Reef Restoration Symposium to discuss the future heath of the reef. Encouragingly, new and innovative solutions are being considered in reef restoration, which draws parallels with the agriculture sector and the innovative solutions that are being implemented on land to improve water quality.
The Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum also convened last week in Brisbane and released the revised Reef 2050 Plan and Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP). The 2050 Plan has been updated in response to increased pressures on the reef, such as successive coral bleaching events, and identifies priorities for immediate attention and new actions to protect the reef. While the WQIP now directly aligns with the 2050 Plan and guides how industry, government and the community will work together to improve the quality of water flowing to the reef.
Importantly for agriculture, the WQIP identifies all land-based sources of water pollution including run-off from urban, industrial and public lands. It sets targets for improving water quality for the 35 catchments flowing to the reef, for the six regions, and for the whole reef to refocus effort and partnerships with our sector.
Through QFF-led Reef Alliance projects, the agricultural sector is taking positive and innovative steps to support progress towards the Symposium’s aims and meet various targets in the 2050 Plan and the WQIP. There has been work on an investment table, however, a critical element still missing is an investment framework that puts a true cost on achieving these targets and prioritises spend and is underpinned by a long-term funding commitment. The updated costing side of this piece of the puzzle is expected early next year.