Only 10% of sugarcane growers in reef catchment properly managing runoff

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Only 10% of sugarcane growers in reef catchment properly managing runoff

Key points

  • Great Barrier Reef report grades sugarcane sector ‘very poor’ with just 9.8% adopting proper management practices


Less than 10% of sugarcane growers in Great Barrier Reef catchments are using appropriate land management practices for reef health, according to a major report that underlines the need for new regulations proposed by the Queensland government.

The federal and Queensland governments’ water quality report card for 2017-2018 says the condition of inshore reefs on the Great Barrier Reef has deteriorated to an overall grade of “D” – which means “poor”.

The report card was one of two major reports on the Great Barrier Reef published Friday. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s five-yearly outlook report was also released and found the reef’s outlook had declined from poor to very poor and would remain so without urgent action to address the climate crisis.

Poor land management practices, which contribute to degradation on the reef due to sediment and nutrient run-off, are highlighted in the report.

It also looks at the condition of inshore corals, water quality and seagrasses and the adoption rates of improved agricultural practices.

In addition to an overall rating of D, the report showed worsening water quality in five out of six inshore regions.

The report card shows extremely low take-up rates of farming methods considered best practice for reef health across almost every area of the agriculture industry in reef regions of Queensland.

The sugarcane sector was graded an “E” – or “very poor” – overall with an adoption rate of improved farming practices of just 9.8%. The target for 2025 is 90%.

The grazing, grains and horticulture sectors were each graded a “D” overall, while the banana industry was graded a “C” with an adoption rate of 64.7%.

Queensland’s environment minister, Leeanne Enoch, said the report showed legislation the government had introduced that will tighten regulations on agricultural run-off that flows into reef catchments was necessary.

“Right now, having seen these two reports, anybody who stands up and opposes the responsible reef regulations that the Palaszczuk government has brought before the parliament (is) simply dismissing the science that backs in these reports,” she said.

Enoch said while the report showed some improvements, it “simply wasn’t enough”. While many farmers were doing good work, she said the uptake wasn’t fast enough.

“There are also a lot of scores that are poor, or very poor,” she said.

“All of these results show why the Palaszczuk government’s proposed reef regulations are needed.”

There has been a campaign by some farmers in Queensland against the tougher regulations that will be debated by the Queensland parliament later this year.

Richard Leck, a campaigner with WWF Australia, said the data in the report card “is the strongest argument” for why new regulations were needed “both in terms of the impact that poor water quality is having and the adoption rates from some sections of the cane-growing industry”.

Imogen Zethoven, the campaign director for the Australian Marine Conservation Society, said the rate of progress was “glacial”.

She said the adoption of best practice land management by some farmers was welcome but it hadn’t occurred at the rate necessary to prevent further deterioration of inshore reef ecosystems that are habitat for many reef species.

“This report makes it absolutely clear that regulations are needed to give the reef a fighting chance in the face of all the threats it is dealing with,” she said.


Originally published by The Guardian.


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