Executive officer of Bundaberg Canegrowers and Bundaberg Region Irrigators Group Tanya Howard speaks about the need to overturn reef regulations. Picture: Mike Knott.
Executive officer of Bundaberg Canegrowers and Bundaberg Region Irrigators Group Tanya Howard speaks about the need to overturn reef regulations. Picture: Mike Knott.

Petition to push call for more reef science

A POLITICAL push led by Bundaberg Canegrowers is seeking to strike out reef management laws that came into effect six months ago.

Eight-hundred Queensland residents have so far signed a parliament petition which urges the State Government to create an office of Science Quality Assurance.

Its aim would be to test the science that underpins political decisions such as reef protection.

The petition is sponsored by Burnett MP Stephen Bennett who said he wanted the overturning of reef management laws to become an election issue, and that he had fought against the laws since they were introduced.

Mr Burnett avoided making a promise to overturn the legislation when asked if an LNP- led government would do so.

“There are some components of reef regulations that needed to happen,” he said.

“But quite frankly what happened went a step too far with this onerous system.

“I do agree that we need to start to look at what water quality looks like, but that’s not putting the onus on farmers.”

Bundaberg Region Irrigators Group’s executive officer Tanya Howard said the government was “strong-arming” the farming industry through over-regulation.

Ms Howard said it was putting bureaucratic and financial pressure on farmers, and that was why she encouraged people to sign the petition.

“We demand farmers be given a fair go. We feed the nation, we take care of our environment and we are being pushed to the wall with the growing tide of red tape and associated costs,” she said.

In September when the legislation was passed, Reef Water Quality Panel chairman Ian Chubb said reef science was not perfect but better than guesswork by “a long way”.

“The science, the evidence, suggests a path to follow if we want a reef for our children and grandchildren to enjoy,” Prof Chubb said.

A Department of Environment and Science spokeswoman said regulations currently required Burnett Mary graziers, sugarcane and banana growers to keep records of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser, mill mud and mill ash.

But in December 2022 the regulations applying to certain agricultural practices will begin.

“This allows farmers in the Burnett Mary to get ready for the future requirements, or simply continue to operate at best practice,” she said.

“To protect the Reef into the future, everyone needs to play their part in reducing sediment and nutrient run-off.

Monitoring and modelling show the Burnett and Mary Rivers are two of the top five sources of sediment flowing onto the Great Barrier Reef.

Addressing sediment loss is particularly important in the Burnett Mary region given the proximity of the largest seagrass areas along the coast, which is important habitat for turtles, dugong, and many species of fish.”


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