25 May 2021. By AgForce Reef Taskforce Chair Alex Stubbs.

Don’t get me wrong; when the Minister for the Environment and Great Barrier Reef Meaghan Scanlon said she wanted to “acknowledge farmers and graziers for their efforts to move away from using practices that pose a high risk to water quality,” I was happy.

AgForce, industry groups, and hundreds of cane farmers and beef cattle graziers affected by, or about to be affected by, the Government’s Reef regulations and standards have battled long and hard for some recognition when it comes to the fantastic work done over many years to ensure our methods produce clean runoff.

But pretty quickly I became disillusioned and disappointed as I realised that in just a few days yet more regulation – this latest raft for new expanded commercial cropping – will be introduced.

Yes, I’m happy that our talks with the Government have resulted in some concessions being made to these new regulations, and hopefully more will come to pass in the days before 1 June.

But the problem I have is that despite our calls for regular, consistent water quality testing of all six catchments so that we can accurately know the quality of the water on the Reef – it still hasn’t happened.

Instead, the science used by Minister Scanlon to both praise and regulate us is more than two years old – the results taken from the Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019.

If we were improving our nutrient and irrigation management based on 2019 practices, then we must be, and are, flying now.

And yet rather than being rewarded with less regulation, we’re the scapegoats for a range of other industries and factors that go ignored because green groups like a target.

So while I and others like me enjoy the praise, at least for a moment, those at the coalface of regulation and an overwhelming array of reporting requirements wait for the real science.


If you’re a producer living in a Reef catchment area, you can’t afford to miss the Government’s online or in-person sessions to assist farmers learn about the new requirements for expanding cropping, taking place from 18 May to 24 June. To register to attend, visit or phone 13 74 68.