The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) has written to the Queensland Liberal National Party (LNP) for clarification on their position regarding the Reef water quality regulations ahead of the state election.
The implementation of the science-backed water regulations, introduced by the Palaszczuk government last year, are essential for the health of our Great Barrier Reef, and the thousands of tourism operators and other workers who rely on it for their livelihoods.
Recent media reports have indicated that the LNP will overhaul the regulations if elected but it is not clear how they will change them. Leader Deb Frecklington has said she wants to legislate minimum standards for growers and AMCS is keen to understand what these minimum standards will be and if they will be different from those already enshrined in the legislation.
AMCS Reef spokesperson David Cazzulino said there needed to be strong laws against all forms of pollution to help protect our iconic Great Barrier Reef, the wonderful wildlife it is home to and the thousands of jobs it supports in Queensland.
“The water quality regulations were informed by comprehensive scientific research and designed to clean up waterways and stop pollution flowing into our Reef. They are crucial for the future of our Reef,” he said.
“Excess fertilizer running off from farms and into our Reef have been linked to plagues of Crown of Thorns starfish that devour vast amounts of coral. Pesticides pollute inshore ecosystems such as seagrass meadows that are habitat for iconic wildlife like dugongs, turtles and inshore dolphins.
“For nearly 20 years, the Australian and Queensland governments have tried to improve Reef water quality through a variety of voluntary schemes. Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on improving farm practices to little effect downstream. Voluntary measures to stop farm pollution have been insufficient to protect our Reef, which is why these laws are essential.
“After last summer’s climate change driven mass coral bleaching – the third in five years – we should be doing all we can to ease the pressure on our Reef.”
Mr Cazzulino said funding for education and extension programs to help farmers comply with the newly introduced regulations is also essential. These funds should be used to fix eroded land, reduce fertiliser and pesticide use, and adopt cleaner, more profitable practices.
“Tourism is a key industry for north Queensland, just like agriculture, and the major political parties need to be mindful of the needs of both groups going into this election. The tourism industry has made it clear that their industry relies on a clean and healthy reef,” he said.
“We look forward to hearing more detail from Ms Frecklington and LNP Reef spokesperson Mr Crisafulli about their plans for the essential water regulations.”