Media Release Fight For Our Reef

Great Barrier Reef the winner as bid to repeal vital water laws is rejected

October 21, 2021

The failure of Katter’s Reef Regulation Reversal Bill to gain support in a Queensland Parliamentary Committee is good news for our Great Barrier Reef, the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) says.

Members of the Queensland Parliament’s Health and Environment Committee recommended the Bill not be passed. If enacted, the Bill will repeal vital water pollution laws and result in more damaging chemicals and sediments flowing from farms into inshore areas of the Reef and harming dugong and turtle habitats.

AMCS’s Reef Water Quality Manager Jaimi Webster said the recommendation supported the scientific consensus on the effects of water pollution and sediment flowing into the Reef from agricultural lands. It also ensures all the investment and efforts of farmers and graziers who are already complying with the targets will not go to waste.

“In the face of global warming impacts and unsustainable fishing practices, our Reef needs less water pollution not more to help it be as resilient as possible,” she said. “Any repeal of the essential Reef regulations would be a huge step backwards and hugely disappointing for the tens of thousands of people in our tourism industry, whose jobs rely on a healthy Reef.

“Katter’s Bill has already been a waste of time and taxpayers’ money for all involved as well as a delaying tactic from some farming groups who should be focusing on helping their members comply with the water quality laws.

“The Reef regulations are not going to go away and there are plenty of farmers and graziers in Queensland who follow water pollution laws and do the right thing, bringing benefits to their lands as well as doing their bit to help protect our global icon in Queensland.

“Helping farmers by funding innovation and incentives to do the right thing, is what is best for the Reef.

“The World Heritage Committee has Australia’s management of the Reef under a spotlight right now. They have called for increased measures to protect our Reef from water pollution. It is unfathomable that some politicians would be trying to repeal the Reef’s vital water pollution laws at this time.”

The Committee’s report will be tabled in Parliament and debated. A vote will be taken on whether to support the Committee’s recommendation that the Bill not be passed. With such strong scientific consensus and stakeholder support for improving water pollution, it is expected the recommendation will be supported and the Bill in its current form will be dead.

Notes to editors

The Reef Protection Regulations were passed in Queensland in 2019 and began rolling out in 2020. The regulations will finish rolling out in 2022.

For around two decades the Australian and Queensland governments spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to improve Reef water quality through a variety of voluntary schemes. Voluntary measures to stop water pollution have been insufficient to clean up the water flowing into our Reef, which is why the laws were introduced.

Water quality targets have been set out in the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan and are based on the quality of water that corals and seagrasses need to be healthy.

The 2015 Reef 2050 Plan, containing 151 actions, was developed by the Queensland and Australian governments in response to the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) considering listing the Reef ‘in danger’ in 2014.

An updated Reef 2050 Plan is due to be released imminently. It follows UNESCO’s recommendation to add the Reef to the list of World Heritage Properties ’in Danger’ due to climate and water quality impacts.

More information about water pollution on the Reef is available here.