June 3, 2021
About 40 rural producers from across the Burnett region were briefed on the updated changes to the Barrier Reef Protection cropping laws at a special session in Kingaroy on Wednesday.
From June 1, farmers now need a permit before any new or expanded commercial cropping or horticulture work can take place in designated Barrier Reef catchments (which includes all the South Burnett).
This permit applies on all areas of five hectares or more that are not currently used for cropping or do not meet a cropping history test.
The last departmental information session about Reef Regulations, held at Kingaroy Town Hall on February 9, attracted more than 160 people concerned about the ramifications of the new laws.
The latest meeting, held in the Kingaroy Town Hall Supper Room, heard some minor changes had been made to the regulations after the Kingaroy meeting and before their implementation on Tuesday.
These included a change in the “cropping history” test. As before, permits will not be required if an area has been cropped three out of the past 10 years; however, a requirement that at least one of those years is within the past five years has been removed.
The requirement that a 5m buffer with at least 80 per cent vegetation be established by November 1 has also been amended.
The update, by officials from the Office of the Great Barrier Reef (part of the Department of Environment and Science) was divided into two sessions.
The first was information about the amended laws and the second a briefing on the science behind the regulations.
At this second session, producers heard there were 980 waterways in the total Great Barrier Reef catchment area, however only 62 of the major ones were being monitored for water quality – with no data being collected anywhere in the South Burnett.
Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington, who quizzed officials at the February meeting, also attended Wednesday’s event.
“I would like to again congratulate the producers who attended the Reef Regulations meeting in Kingaroy for continuing to voice their concerns about these onerous regulations,” Mrs Frecklington said.
“While we have seen some small concessions made by the Department of Environment, the regulations in general will still affect every primary producer in the South Burnett and western Gympie regions.
“Much of the concern from producers about these regulations stems from the belief that these rules should not apply in our region.
“The presentation at the meeting revealed there is no relevant water quality monitoring happening in our area, with the closest monitoring station being at Mt Lawless near Gayndah.
“There are no paddock monitoring programs, no ‘regional report card’ for the Burnett-Mary catchment area and no consideration of the effect of invasive weeds or feral pigs on streambank erosion.
“There is simply no data to support why the South Burnett and western Gympie areas should be included. It is just inferred, by using data from other areas.
“At the least, this government needs to waive the permit fees for at least 12 months in our region to give our farmers the chance to meet the standard requirements, or otherwise this will have serious ramifications for the mental health of our producers and future productivity of this area.”