In a major step to protecting the inshore reefs of the GBR, the Queensland Government have inacted fairly dramatic legislation on the use of fertilisers and pesticides on farms in the reef catchment. Under the new rules, farmers in the Mackay-Whitsunday, Burdekin Dry Tropics and Far North’s Wet Tropic catchments must keep records on fertiliser usage and apply ‘no more than the optimum amount of fertiliser to their soil’. The use of the pesticides Atrazine, Diuron, Ametryn, Hexazinone or Tebuthiuron are also subject to an array of new rules and regulations.
Although not without controversy, this is great news for the reefs on the GBR. Over 32,000 tonnes of fertiliser (worth $32 million) leaches out into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon every year through overfertilisation on farms. There is strong scientific evidence showing that elevated pesticide and nutrients from the land associated with flood waters induce coral bleaching and mortality during flood years (see here for a great post by Jon Brodie on the subject).
Strict controls on fertilisers and pesticides and close monitoring of large and high-risk farms in north Queensland will help heal the Great Barrier Reef, Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones said today.
Ms Jones, introducing the Great Barrier Reef Protection Bill 2009 to State Parliament, said the legislation would reduce the levels of farm chemicals and sediment harming the Reef.
“The Bill will help detox the Great Barrier Reef and give it a fighting chance,” Ms Jones said.
“The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s most treasured possession and is worth nearly $6 billion to our economy, supporting about 63,000 jobs.
“But its health has been deteriorating from a number of factors, including damaging run-off from sugar cane fields and beef cattle farms in Reef catchments.
“We must do all we can to ensure this natural wonder of the world survives long after us and that means minimising man-made harm. This Bill is good for the Reef and it makes good business sense for farmers.
“While many farmers are doing the right thing and have minimised their impact, we must go further than the voluntary approach to get the results we need faster.
“Our Reef is too precious so we have no option but to act now and act decisively.
“The Bligh Government told Queenslanders last election that we would regulate to reduce the amount of fertiliser and pesticides entering the Reef by 50 per cent in four years.
“The Bill makes good on that commitment. It’s backed by strong scientific evidence and it gives the Reef every chance of recovering from the damage inflicted by over-fertilising, toxic pesticides and soil run-off.”(Link to media release)