AgForce is calling on governments to properly acknowledge the efforts of rural communities in contributing to the health of the Great Barrier Reef, as a new report reveals water quality is on the up.
The Reef Water Quality Report Card 2020, released on Friday, shows progress is heading towards two critical water quality improvement targets - almost halfway towards the 60 per cent target to reduce dissolved inorganic nitrogen loads by 2025 and more than halfway to the 25 per cent target to reduce fine sediment by 2025.
AgForce Reef Taskforce Chair Alex Stubbs said he was delighted that ongoing improvements had been made to water quality and Reef health, however, criticised the report card methodology, which only focuses on government-funded Reef projects and fails to take into account the voluntary best practice of producers.
Mr Stubbs said: “I am utterly frustrated to read that both the Morrison and Palaszczuk Governments have refused to recognise and quantify the significant voluntary contributions of farmers in making land management practice changes to reduce pesticide farm run-off.
“Similar to previous years, the Reef Report Card summarises activities funded by government, however, does not recognise most farmers that are at or above best practice level, have been there for years, and that have done it voluntarily and without handouts from the government.
“It is extremely disappointing to see that governments have not focused on the bigger picture when it comes to Reef health and are instead using the report card to trumpet about the ‘record levels of investment’ they have contributed.”
AgForce is also lobbying for the creation of an Office of Science Quality Assurance in a bid to free regional communities from onerous, unfair Reef regulations based on outdated and flawed science.
Mr Stubbs said it was wrong to target farmers when pesticide run-off was no longer a threat to the Reef.
“The Reef Report Card recorded pesticide detections at extremely low levels, confirming pesticides are not a risk to Reef and should be dropped from Reef water quality targets,” he said.
“What’s more, the latest research from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority confirms the biggest impacts to Reef health are rising ocean temperatures due to climate change, damaging tropical cyclones, and crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks.
“Government policy needs to reflect the new science so that 12,500 farmers are not subjected to unnecessary red tape and record-keeping with devastating consequences to mental health.”
Mr Stubbs said he was awaiting the soon-to-be released 2022 Scientific Consensus Statement (updated every five years to ensure that Reef policy remains up-to-date and based on the best available evidence).
“We seek an urgent reset to focus scientific work more strongly on ground truthing modelling assumptions, targeting areas of potential improvement – not solely producers,” he added.
“We must genuinely bring in and measure significant voluntary work being done by whole communities and ensure the 2022 Consensus Statement includes and references ALL relevant scientific work.”
For media comments contact: AgForce Reef Taskforce Chair Alex Stubbs 0417 072 841