The Tourism Development and Environment Committee will this week hand down its report and recommendations following a review of the Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019.
It was very disappointing that initially the committee was not going to conduct regional hearings. Continued pressure from QFF, industry members and other groups saw this rectified and farmers responded in strong numbers actively engaging in the four meetings along the coast. The unfortunate reality is that the government appears unmoved on this policy and many will not be surprised with the findings of the committee’s report and the failure to take on board genuine concerns about the implementation and effect these laws will have on Queensland’s agricultural sector.
Agriculture has been and remains committed to doing its bit for the Reef. For example, over the years the cane industry has drastically changed its practices with 80 per cent of the crop now cut green leaving a mulch blanket on the paddock, and 80 per cent of growers now using fallow rotations to protect and nourish their soil between cane crops. Where best management practices are concerned, the industry has gone from 0 to 70 per cent of the state’s sugarcane area being benchmarked in the Smartcane BMP program in under five years.
Growers in the Burnett Mary Catchment are among those contributing to these BMP figures and have been unjustifiably included in the proposed regulations. They are 100km south of the Reef and the direction of the current prevents potential runoff from affecting it. While further north in the Johnstone River, new research tracing river sediment to its contributing land use found rainforest was the dominant source, not cane growing, banana production or grazing.
QFF fully supports and accepts that there is a need for effective regulation and our sector’s role in farming alongside the Reef. However, if the proposed regulations are endorsed by the committee and passed by government, a greater regulatory burden will be placed on Queensland’s farmers while not guaranteeing any real benefits for the Reef.