Farmers welcome changes to Reef regulation

Fraser Barton
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Amendments will be made to regulations protecting the Great Barrier Reef from agricultural runoff in a win for local producers.

Queensland government regulations for the agricultural industry in the reef catchment are due to come into effect on June 1, 2021.

The regulations outline rules for appropriate land management practices on farms, to protect water quality and improve the run-off of substances such as dissolved inorganic nitrogen, the Reef’s highest-risk marine pollutant.

Amendments proposed by industry body AgForce and its members are to be included in the re-write of the regulations, which will acknowledge the practical and pragmatic suggestions by industry, their CEO Michael Guerin says.

“It’s been a fundamental change in approach from our perspective and it’s warmly welcomed,” Guerin said on the government’s response.

“We describe it as a game changer or a seismic shift, it really is significant.”

Changes to the regulatory wording stipulate minimising sediment nutrient loss into the waterways, rather than avoiding and mitigating, which has significant implications for producers.

The mandatory requirement for vegetative buffer on receiving waters has also been deleted.

Meanwhile, the ‘cropping history test’ has been changed from three in ten years, to one in five.

The test sets parameters for land use, whereby farmers who are unable to use their land for intended purposes then have to re-apply through the government.

Some producers may not yield crop on their land for up to five years due to drought or floods.

Mr Guerin said the amendments ensure the protection of the reef as well as local farming industries.

“In previous submissions towards landscape and vegetation we were fundamentally ignored,” he said.

“This time, a lot of what we put in has been considered and adopted, that will make an enormous difference to producers without taking away from the protection of the reef.”

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