Farmers in Mackay and the Whitsundays have been flagged as leaders in the bid to improve water quality and the health of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Great Barrier Reef Report Card 2012 and 2013 was released yesterday by Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt MP and Queensland Minister for the Environment and Heritage Protection, Andrew Powell MP.
The Report Card indicated the Mackay Whitsunday region showed the largest reduction of all six regions measured in Queensland for two key pollutants – nitrogen and pesticides.
Reef Catchments CEO Robert Cocco said larger than average reductions could be attributed to the shift from C class management to B and A class management farming practices over the past three years.
“There has been an immense effort by farmers in our region to improve their practices to be both more productive and sustainable,” Mr Cocco said.
“While there is still plenty of work to be done, I would like to say a big congratulations to our region’s cane farmers, graziers and horticulturalists. They are the ones driving change on the ground.”
The report card measured progress in actions taken to improve water quality in the reef between July 2009 and June 2013. Water quality readings were broken into six geographic zones – the overall Great Barrier Reef, Cape York, Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday and Fitzroy River.
The report also highlighted the percentage of farmers to have adopted better land management practices that directly reduce the amount of pollutants entering the reef.
Mr Cocco said Mackay Whitsunday primary producers ranked highly.
“Mackay Whitsunday set the bar highest for improved practices by graziers. Horticulturalists also ranked highly with 66 per cent of horticulture producers known to have adopted improved land management practices.”
Mr Cocco said the ongoing work of cane farmers was also to be applauded.
“This is a major industry and there are a large number of sugar producers in the Mackay Whitsunday region. Change in terms of percentage of adoption might be less rapid, but it is more significant in terms of numbers when it occurs,” he said.
From 2009 to 2013, a minimum of 49 per cent of Mackay Whitsunday sugarcane growers are known to have adopted improved land management practices. This represents more than 670 individual farmers from the region’s total of 1,380 sugarcane growers.
But Mr Cocco said there was a clear need for further funding and support to allow the region to reach its full potential.
“These results are promising, but we still have a long way to go. Our rural producers need dollars, support and resources to improve their practices, as major change comes with a financial cost,” he said.
“There is also a need for a collective focus toward other non-rural land uses and the impact these are having toward water quality at the end of our catchment.
“We have seen the rural sector continue to do its bit, however water quality is influenced by many factors – urban and coastal development for example.
“There remain other areas our region has underperformed. For example, the condition of our inshore sea grass meadows remained ‘very poor’, our inshore marine environment was ‘poor’ and our coral reefs remained in a ‘moderate’ condition.
“Clearly there is an ongoing need for improved environmental and natural resource works and outcomes in the Mackay Whitsunday region.”
Read more: To read detailed results click here – http://www.reefplan.qld.gov.au/measuring-success/report-cards/assets/gbr-report-card-12-13-detailed-results.pdf
Media Contact: Jaime Newborn M – 0438 726 226 E – firstname.lastname@example.org