Qld cane farmers say they are being demonised over water quality concerns on the Great Barrier Reef. Image by Alison Godfrey/AAP PHOTOS

Environment

Qld farmers ‘demonised’ over reef water

2020-07-28 13:57:51

Angry cane farmers have lost faith in reef scientists’ data and claim they are being demonised over water quality concerns on the Great Barrier Reef. 

A senate inquiry held in Brisbane on Monday is exploring the impact of farm practices on the reef. 

Several cane growing associations have called for the Queensland government to revoke its 2019 Reef Regulations Amendment Act. 

The laws set minimum practice standards to limit nutrient and sediment runoff from sugar cane, grazing, bananas, grains and horticultural activities and give government power collect data from the agricultural sector.

It also meant areas of agriculture that were not previously covered by reef protection measures would be, and would ensure water quality would not worsen with new development. 

But the cane growing bodies want the laws scrapped and replaced by an Office of Science Quality Assurance to fact-check the science being used to make regulatory decisions.

“Farmers do take their environmental stewardship responsibilities, including whole for whole of the Great Barrier Reef very seriously,” one told the hearings.

“They trusted reef scientists to get the science right, to tell the real stories about what’s going on around 3000 or so pristine reefs – that trust has been destroyed.”

“Instead cane farmers are being publicly demonised and they were soon wearing penalties of over $200,000 for a crime they did not commit and more significantly for a crime that never happened.”

The farmers said these alleged crimes included allowing illegal pesticide run-off onto the reef.

The farmers claim the legislation is unfair and based on unchecked science. 

However, scientists say they’re simply doing their job.

“This is why we exist,” one said. 

“And as individuals and professionals, why we get up and go to work every day.”

Farmers say the majority of growers are embracing best industry practices, despite state government claims that they are being slow to embrace change.