A sugarcane industry public relations campaign launched against new water quality regulations is generating further risk for the future of the Great Barrier Reef, says the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS).
Imogen Zethoven, AMCS director of strategy, said the campaign announced by industry group Canegrowers was “disappointing” at a time when the Reef needed all the help it could get.
She said: “Let’s be clear – there are many cane growers that have been doing the right thing and they should be congratulated.
“But unfortunately, they have been massively outnumbered by growers who have not engaged with the industry’s own program to keep soils, nutrients and chemicals out of the waterways that flow into the reef. A public relations campaign can’t hide those facts.
“We have had report after report saying that we need regulatory reform to clean up the Reef’s waters. Our Reef needs these regulations.”
As at the end of June this year, only about 11 per cent of cane growers were accredited as complying with the voluntary industry-led Smartcane Best Practice Management Program (BMP).
This represents just 23 per cent of the land areas used for cane growing, which is well short of the 90 per cent target set in 2013 by the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Protection Plan.
Zethoven added: “The major threat to the Reef is from the rapidly heating oceans that cause mass coral bleaching outbreaks. The science shows us that to give the Reef the best chance of survival, it needs clean water to help it recover.
“Getting the water cleaned up was a key promise that Australia made to the World Heritage committee when it was considering putting the Reef on the ‘In Danger’ list in 2015.”
Earlier this week, it was reported that the Canegrowers group was also organising a mini speaking tour for contrarian scientist, Dr Peter Ridd, who claims the reef is in good health.
Zethoven added: “The science showing the Reef’s corals are being hit hard by climate change and poor water quality is overwhelming. The fact that the Canegrowers group is also now trying to attack the science, while claiming they are doing the right thing to protect it, is deeply disappointing.”
AMCS media adviser Graham Readfearn 0406 241 081
Note: The Canegrowers Smartcane BMP website states that 420 farms are accredited with the program. The most recent Reef water Quality Protection Report card (2016) stated there were approximately 3777 sugarcane producers across the Reef catchment.