Push for farmers to join effort to protect reef

THE Queensland Government is calling on farmers to embrace minimum industry standards in support of the push to cut water pollution causing damage to the Great Barrier Reef.

Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Dr Steven Miles said the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is establishing a targeted compliance program, in close consultation with key industry bodies, which will play an important role in the government's plan to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

"The Reef Report Card for 2014 showed that progress on reducing pollutants entering the Reef catchments flat-lined under the previous LNP government" Dr Miles said.

"The previous government chose not to enforce the legislated minimum standards that are in place to help protect the reef from damaging run off. Now we can see the consequences of that decision.

"The Palaszczuk Government is committed to working with industry to achieve greater participation in voluntary industry-led Best Management Practice programs.

"We will also ensure that as part of this program, there are officers on the ground dedicated to working with farmers to meet their legislative obligations.

"This includes regulated standards to reduce the loss of nutrients, pesticides and sediment, as a priority in the Wet Tropics and Burdekin Great Barrier Reef catchments.

"Our main focus will be support and education. Targeted enforcement action will only be taken where necessary."

Regulations require farmers to undertake soil tests, avoid using more than the optimum amount of nitrogen and phosphorus fertiliser and soil conditioners, and follow label instructions when using pesticides, and keep records of fertiliser and pesticide use. They also apply to cane farmers and graziers in the Mackay-Whitsunday catchment.

Dr Miles said there was a lot of work to do to meet water quality targets.

"The scientific evidence tells us that significant quantities of fertiliser and pesticides from sugarcane production and sediment from grazing are entering the Reef's waters," Dr Miles said.

"Many growers and graziers have already adopted improved practices and I recognise and applaud their effort.

"But if we are to achieve our Reef water quality targets, we need many more farmers and graziers taking up practices that reduce the loss of soil and expensive pesticides and fertilisers from their farms."

Dr Miles said the government would coordinate local workshops to give producers, graziers and industry support staff an opportunity to discuss reef health issues and ways to increase the uptake of improved practices.

More information is available on www.qld.gov.au/FarmingInReefCatchments.

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