Producers, farmers want common sense on reef laws

Call for cool heads to examine state plans for the GBR


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Dr Peter Ridd addresses the audience at the AgForce Reef Regulations Roadshow event at CQLX Gracemere.

Dr Peter Ridd addresses the audience at the AgForce Reef Regulations Roadshow event at CQLX Gracemere.

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The Gracemere audience heard from keynote speakers addressing the Queensland Government's planned reef regulations.

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LET common sense prevail and check the science were the take home messages when the AgForce Reef Regulations roadshow rolled out of Gracemere at lunchtime on September 13.

About 40 producers, farmers and at least one retired university lecturer found their way to the Central Queensland Livestock Exchange for the information session. The Gracemere event brought to a close a round of four such meetings following others in Alpha, Capella and Moura.

As happened elsewhere, the Gracemere audience heard from keynote speakers addressing the Queensland Government's planned reef regulations.

On February 27, the government introduced the Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 (Reef Protection Bill) and AgForce believes the proposed regulations will affect graziers and grain growers across six reef catchments.

AgForce thinks the Bill is an "unnecessary impost on farmers" with more red tape.

Mark Davie, Greenlake Station, Rossmoya, admitted the regulations posed a real threat to his business if introduced without alteration.

"There could be a significant impact on my business, particularly because of where we are located," Mr Davie said.

"We are all trying to manage our properties as best we can and we need to be able to work with government to find what's best for the reef and for production. If producers are not commercial then the business will fall away and it won't be worthwhile for anyone."

Greenlake Station runs a Brahman cross herd on some flood plain and higher country north of Rockhampton, rotating their cattle through the property in line with the seasons.

Mr Davie disputes the notion producers and farmers have caused problems for the Great Barrier Reef.

"I think we need to look at the entire system and the impact of everyone within it," he said.

"Obviously we can all look at managing our practices as best we can for the sake of the reef and the sake of the environment. But legislation that's not informed by science and outcomes is not going to work."

Grower Colin Dunne, Sorrell Hills, Duaringa, has labelled the proposed regulations as "ridiculous" and likely to cause unnecessary delays and distress.

"If I want to irrigate off the new Rookwood Weir I would be hamstrung because the paperwork would tie me up for years and years," Mr Dunne said.

"It is very hard to get any real detail on these regulations and to me it seems a bit secretive. At the end of the day I think these will be very similar to the trigger maps and they will come to realise the harm they are doing to producers and people trying to go about their daily farming and daily cattle practices.

"I think they will see sense and they'll soften their ridiculous regulations

"I am certainly not a farmer doing anything to the reef. I haven't even got a contour bank on my country it's so flat and I've got good ground cover so there's no run-off.

"I do best practice farming, so there's not much else I can do. Others might think there's more for me to do but I'd like them to come out and show me how."

Controversial geophysicist Dr Peter Ridd said the regulations would mean farmers having to seek permission from bureaucrats to do "anything really significant" on their land.

"But the worst part is that if these regulations are designed to do something about the Great Barrier Reef, well they won't because the reef is actually in excellent shape and it's not even being minutely affected by farming," Dr Ridd said.

"In my view the science is not properly quality assured - a lot of it is dubious and some of it is without doubt just wrong. The Great Barrier Reef itself is a long way off shore and there is almost zero land-derived sediment out there.There is effectively zero pesticides out there.

"So where 99 percent of where the corals are there is no effect.

"What the science institutions keep on doing is they talk about these in-shore reefs, which is not even the Great Barrier Reef but tiny, little reefs along the coast next to some of the islands and even there it is doubtful that farming practices are having any effect at all.

"These in-shore reefs are those near Keppel, Magnetic Island and the like, ones quite close to shore and they are very different reefs. They are often beautiful but the water there is more likely to be naturally turbid because of the mud on the bottom that has been laid down over thousands of years and gets stirred up by waves.

"They are in very good health.

"But if you argue farmers had damaged all these in-shore reefs - and I hasten to add they have done nothing of the sort - it's only one percent of the coral. We cannot talk about a complete wipeout of the reef by farmers because it is not true."

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