Reef regulations must be debated in regions

Great Barrier Reef regulation debate


Agribusiness
Canegrowers will be among those impacted by the new reef regulations.

Canegrowers will be among those impacted by the new reef regulations.

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Farmers in the regions must be consulted before new reef laws are 'rushed' through, industry groups say.

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FARMERS in North Queensland's reef catchments are demanding public hearings be held in impacted regions to debate new legislation regarding the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.

A public hearing will be held in Brisbane on Monday to discuss the Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, but no hearings have been scheduled in areas that will be impacted by the changes.

The bill aims to improve water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef and will strengthen regulations for cane, banana, horticulture, grain and grazing properties in all reef regions from Cape York to Burnett.

AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said industry groups had not been consulted ahead of the bill's introduction and they were still not being given a voice.

"We are disgusted, disappointed, the arrogance of this government is breathtaking," Mr Guerin said.

"It is even worse than the vegetation management laws last year.

"To say we have been consulted is a bald lie."

Mr Guerin said the work of farmers who had been undertaking best management practice projects had been completely disregarded.

"We know that voluntary practice change programs based on good science provide the best outcomes.

"Despite knowing voluntary programs supported by industry get the best outcomes, they are choosing to put that all to one side to bring in a regulatory impost we can only assume has been given by inner-city greens and voices in Brisbane."

Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan said he was disappointed that only a Brisbane public hearing had been scheduled at this stage.

"We call on the committee to reconsider this plan of minimal consultation and travel outside of the city to meet with the people and see the regions which will be most affected by the bill," Mr Galligan said. 

He said cane growers were already undertaking on farm changes to benefit the environment and should be given a voice.

"A failure to hear from those affected in the communities where they live would be disrespectful to the people of Queensland," Mr Galligan said.

Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage said the legislation would put an unfair impost on farmers without taking into account other industries whose activities impact the reef.

"These regulations are just placing a further burden on industry already burdened by high energy prices, high water costs, low sugar prices and now the burden of the reef is going to be placed on that," Mr Armitage said.

"I don't think it's fair that one or two rural industries should have the whole burden of reef regulations placed on them, when there is plenty of other industries out there, like tourism, in towns up and down the coast of Queensland that are not going to have regulations on them as tough as the horticulture industry, sugar industries and beef industries.

"The question is why is there such strict regulations coming up without proper consultation?"

LNP environment spokesman David Crisafulli said any changes should not be rushed and impacted regions should be consulted.

"Wide-reaching laws are proposed to be enforced from Cape York to the Sunshine Coast but after promising a consultative road show the state government haven't even confirmed a single hearing outside of Brisbane," Mr Crisafulli said.

"There is no reason to rush these changes and I'm calling on the government to allow regional communities a say.

"We've got to get these changes right and that involves talking to the communities which are impacted.

"It's a rushed hatchet job because they don't want to face the justified scrutiny from regional Queensland."

The bill was introduced in state parliament on February 27, with public submissions closing on March 15. The Innovation, Tourism Development and Environment Committee is now considering the bill, with a public hearing to be held in Brisbane next Monday.

The story Reef regulations must be debated in regions first appeared on North Queensland Register.

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