Qld farmers want science auditor for reef law

Queensland farmers are asking a national science auditor to check the impact of runoff laws on the Great Barrier Reef after the state parliament rejected a bill by Katter’s Australian Party seeking to relax the rules .

KAP deputy leader Nick Dametto’s bill had sought to roll back the Labor government’s reef protections in 2019, which penalized landowners for sediment runoff into the reef.

Mr Dametto warned that maintaining existing reef regulations could cripple the sugar cane industry in North Queensland.

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“There is widespread fear in our sugarcane communities that history shows reef regulations are the catalyst that will slowly shut down the industry,” he said Wednesday.

AgForce, the state’s peak body for sugarcane, livestock, grain, sheep and wool producers, criticized major parties for rejecting the party’s crossbench bill Tuesday night.

AgForce Reef Task Force Chairman Alex Stubbs said state politicians don’t want to change runoff laws, so the only way to deal with it is a new national auditor to verify. the science behind reef regulation.

“When our calls are finally answered, we can prove once and for all that land-based fertilizer and pesticide runoff is not harming the reef and that the current level of regulation is a hindrance, not a help,” said he declared.

Mr Stubbs said defeating the bill is deeply disappointing because it would mean the continuation of onerous and unfair regulations for producers.

“It certainly would have been a step in the right direction for reef regulation,” he said.

“Ultimately, why regulate pesticide use in reef basins, when water quality monitoring shows that levels detected in river deltas do not exceed water quality trigger values? the water.

“Why put budgets on sugar cane farms for fertilizer use when the latest scientific research has shown that many factors cause outbreaks of crown of thorns and there is no evidence that the fertilizer runoff is related to this.

“By wrongfully targeting the farming community, the state government is simply failing to protect the reef.”

Mr Stubbs said the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority said the biggest threats to the reef were rising ocean temperatures due to climate change, damaging tropical cyclones and outbreaks of starfish at Crown of thorns.

Green MP Amy MacMahon did not support the bill, pointing out that the GBRMPA said in 2019 that terrestrial sediment and nutrient runoff was one of the biggest threats to the reef.

However, she said farmers were right to feel aggrieved by the state government because it was forcing them to do the “heavy lifting” without taking action on climate change itself.

“Farmers are on the front lines of climate change, and if we did climate action right, climate action would include support and increased prosperity for farmers who care for the earth every day,” Ms MacMahon told the Parliament on Tuesday.