Protection of the Great Barrier Reef is usually a pretty contentious issue in Queensland. Just last night a law was passed in through parliment aiming to half the amount of pesticides entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon from the catchments in under four years time. In order to achieve this, there needs to be significant change in farming practices, and those who fail to comply will face fines of upto $30,000. According to Liberal National Party Member of Parliament Rob Messenger, it’s all a secret deal with the green lobbyists:
“If there was ever proof of an unprecedented level of corruption, it is this putrid piece of legislation”
According to the North Queensland Member of Parliament Shane Knuth:
“This issue of nutrients of farmers that are killing the Great Barrier Reef – the evidence of the scientists proves that it’s just a fable, it’s a myth”
“The Bligh Government’s approach in demonising farmers to seek to reward the radical green extremists.”
Fables and myths from radical green extremists? Really? Consider this: levels of herbicides on the Great Barrier Reef are toxic enough to induce bleaching in corals, alter seagrass function by inhibiting photosynthesis (with knock-on effect to dugong feeding areas), impact on the early life stages of corals (along with reducing their reproductive output), and cause severe dieback in mangroves (which act as nursery areas for juvenile reef fish). Oh, and levels of herbicides are now commonplace in sediments and seagrasses, across river mouths and inshore reefs on the GBR.
So what “evidence of the scientists proves that it’s just a fable, just a myth”? Certainly not a paper written earlier this year (“Agricultural lands are hot-spots for annual runoff polluting the southern Great Barrier Reef lagoon“) concluded that “…grazing lands contribute the majority of the long-term average annual load of most common pollutants”, and suggested that “improved land management targets, rather than water quality targets should be implemented to reduce GBR pollution”.
Oh come on, you don’t really think that decades of scientific research by thousands of scientists outweighs the opinion of a Qld National Party politician do you? Get real, these guys just KNOW.
This comes up every year, and I have had a go at it before, here http://www.blognow.com.au/mrpickwick/52610/Point_Counter_Point.html and here http://www.blognow.com.au/mrpickwick/131005/Beautiful_one_day_.html
I am amazed that the Qld government is so far hanging in there.
As someone closely involved in Reef Plan and Reef Rescue I think one point the people in opposition to the Reef Protection Bill make which is valid is that the legislation was largely unnecessary given the current success of the implementation of the Federal Government’s voluntary Reef Rescue program. Reef Rescue, with total funding of $200 million, appears to be working well with farmers across the GBR catchment applying for funds enthusiastically to implement better management practices on farm.
Most of the other points the opposition to the Bill makes are nonsense:
‘Grant Maudsley, from Agforce, said monitoring runoff and recording the use of chemicals was already in place. “Farmers keep very accurate records now – they are in the business of applying fertiliser and chemicals accurately,” Maudsley said when the bill was introduced in June.’
– In fact records of pesticide use in Queensland are almost nonexistent. What data there is, is kept secret. While there are some programs monitoring runoff these are not very comprehensive or continuously funded for long enough to get satisfactory results (the fault of the Queensland Government not Agforce).
‘Canegrowers chairman Alf Cristaudo said farmers were being unfairly persecuted. “By and large, growers do most of that right now – we are not environmental vandals and we don’t want to use more fertilisers or chemicals than we need to,” Cristaudo said.”We’ve been adopting best management practices for some time now.” ‘
– While I agree canefarmers are not environmental vandals and perhaps “don’t want to use more fertilisers or chemicals than we need” the evidence shows that canefarmers are using more fertilisers and pesticides than they really need for best profitability and environmental outcomes. In addition I see no evidence that canefarmers in general are using current available best management practices for fertiliser or pesticides.
‘North Queensland MP Shane Knuth says farmers have been demonised. “This issue of nutrients of farmers that are killing the Great Barrier Reef – the evidence of the scientists proves that it’s just a fable, it’s a myth,” he said.’
– This wild claim from Knuth probably originates from statements from the one reputable scientist who publicly casts doubts on the danger the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) faces from agriculturally derived pollution – Peter Ridd of James Cook University (also my own University). Peter provides little scientific evidence published in the scientific literature to back his claims. On the other hand the case for risk and damage to the GBR from agricultural pollutants is supported by hundreds of scientific papers in the published literature summarised last year in the scientific supporting report to Consensus Statement available at:
http://www.reefplan.qld.gov.au/library/pdf/publications/Synthesis of evidence to support the Scientific Consensus Statement on Water Quality in the GBR.pdf