Identification of Leading Practices in Ensuring Evidence-Based Regulation of Farm Practices that Impact Water Quality Outcomes in the GBR – GSM Inquiry Submission

WE REJECT THE QLD STATE GOVERNMENT'S REEF REGULATIONS

We, provide this submission in rejection of the continuation of the Queensland state government’s Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 (“Reef Regulations”).

In her introductory speech, Minister for Environment and Great Barrier Reef the Hon Leeanne Enoch MP on 27 February 2019 stated, ” The standards will require growers to replace outdated high-risk practices with practices that are known to limit nutrient and sediment run-off and enhance efficiency, including in cost of production. These changes will be staged to commence between 2019 and 2022 according to water quality risk. The minimum practice standards align with recognised benchmarks for agricultural practices but limit run-off while sustaining farm productivity and profitability.”

This statement yet again highlights the Queensland Labor Government’s incorrect presupposition that the farmers and graziers of the state are not at the cutting edge of innovation and practices that better manage and balance both the environment and profitability.

The state government did not provide details of proposed minimum practice standards prior to adoption nor did they afford those directly affected an adequate time frame in which to state their cases and highlight the significant impost such drastic legislations would cause. The Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 neglects any producer undertakings that address measures of ensuring reef quality that aren’t encapsulated under official Best Management Practice (BMP) initiatives. This skews data surrounding BMP uptake figures. The legislation does not factor in clear evidence of demonstrated improvements made by the sugar industry in using fallow rotations, trash blanketing and underground fertiliser applications.

It does not take into account that over 70% of the states cane growing land is already being operated under industry best practices. It instead gives broad reaching power to a departmental Chief Executive officer in setting minimum standards and the ability to change them without sufficient consultation, accountability, or regard to potential crop yield reduction and increased cost burdens. The classifications used to categorise land conditions used within the regulations are based on an A, B, C, D, framework. With no provision within this framework for percentages of land falling within a classification, graziers with even the smallest proportion of land categorised as “poor”, would then be deemed to be managing this classification over the entire holding.

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