FLASHBACK: South Burnett farmers at a Reef Regulations briefing in Kingaroy earlier this month
AgForce CEO Mike Guerin (Photo: AgForce)

February 22, 2021

The Burnett-Mary catchment should not be included in State Government reef protection agricultural regulations, AgForce Qld CEO Michael Guerin says.

But Mr Guerin also emphasised AgForce did not support any of the State Government’s agricultural reef regulations.

Speaking to southburnett.com.au, Mr Guerin said they were an “abomination” in their current form.

“They do nothing for the environment and will destroy small businesses and small communities,” he said.

“We are against them in their entirety.”

However, if the reef regulations were implemented, Mr Guerin said the Burnett should not be included.

“It’s just horrifying what’s going on,” he said.

“We are absolutely opposed and for good reason.”

Last week, AgForce sent the Office of the Great Barrier Reef a seven-page submission filled with what it describes as “well-considered, scientifically supported” examples of why it is opposed to the Agricultural Standards for the Great Barrier Reef.

General President – and Durong grazier – Georgie Somerset said the new “Draft Standards for New or Expanded Cropping” showed that “no matter how much work agriculture does to improve its practices … we will never be green enough for some”.

The release of the Draft Standards prompted a large turnout at a meeting at Kingaroy Town Hall on February 9.

“If we can’t then gain the respect we deserve through sheer hard work and on-farm improvements, we will continue to push government to recognise the science,” Mrs Somerset said.

“Not the cherry-picked science that panders to WWF’s (World Wide Fund for Nature) and others’ political agendas and bias, but real, holistic, long-form science that tells the situation as it really is.

“And if that doesn’t work – which it currently isn’t – we’ll continue our calls for the Federal Government to establish an independent Office of Science Integrity to guarantee quality assurance of the science used to inform Reef policy.

“Because industry has had enough. We are sick and tired of breaking our backs and being punished for it.

“The most frustrating part is that if we could all work together – industry, government, environmental groups – we would achieve far more for the environment, for the Reef, than we are by playing the current ongoing blame game.”

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QFF CEO Dr Georgina Davis (Photo: Twitter)

Meanwhile, the Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) has reiterated agriculture’s commitment to securing the future of the Great Barrier Reef following the release of the 2019 Reef Water Quality Report Card.

The Report Card assessed the results of all Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan actions reported up to June 2019 and found encouraging progress, particularly at a regional and catchment level, with improved practices leading to pollutant reductions.

QFF CEO Dr Georgina Davis said that while climate change remained the greatest threat to the Reef, improving the quality of water flowing from the land to the sea was critical to reduce additional pressures and support the Reef’s health and resilience.

“The Report Card makes clear that landholders are investing time and resources in programs that are delivering water quality benefits, with a 4.3 per cent reduction in dissolved inorganic nitrogen, the Reef’s highest risk marine pollutant, a cumulative decrease of 25.5 per cent since 2013,” Dr Davis said.

“These results are considered a conservative estimate of progress as projects are in different stages of implementation so not all activities undertaken during the reporting period are captured and much of the water quality improvement information published is a long way behind on farm and water-quality reality.

“Additionally, the Report Card does not factor in the impact of severe and unavoidable weather events such as cyclones and droughts, which can quickly undo progress.”

“Agriculture has been, and remains committed to doing its bit for the Reef, and over the past few years there has been an exponential increase of farmer participation in Best Management Practice and other voluntary practice improvement programs working to minimise soil loss, fertiliser application and pesticide runoff.

“Increased uptake of land management practices is required to continue this trajectory and meet the water quality targets.”

Dr Davis said the Report card highlighted the need for further investment to continue momentum following the conclusion of the Reef Alliance’s Growing a Great Barrier Reef (GGBR) project last year.

“With the GGBR project now concluded, government support is needed to ensure its ongoing legacy and continued capacity gains made towards long-term practice change across all Reef catchment areas and industries, while ensuring budgetary implications from COVID-19 do not hinder future progress.”

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