Media Release Great Barrier Reef

Restoring coastal habitat will improve Reef water quality

February 15, 2023
  • Govt has announced $20.75m to improve agricultural land management
  • Govt falling behind in reaching 2025 Reef water quality targets 

The Queensland Government should be investing more in restoring coastal habitat if it’s serious about improving Great Barrier Reef water quality, the Australian Marine Conservation Society said after the government announced another $20.75 million to be spent on improving agricultural land management in Reef catchments.

The Queensland Government announced yesterday that a further $20.75 million would be spent on the Grazing Resilience and Sustainable Solutions (GRASS) program and the agricultural industry’s Best Management Practice (BMP) programs.

AMCS Great Barrier Reef Water Quality manager Jaimi Webster said: “Water pollution is a huge threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Restoring coastal habitats will have long-term impacts on improving Reef water quality. The Queensland Government needs to be investing in restoring riverbanks and gullies, as well as wetlands, mangroves and seagrasses, which are also vital habitats for threatened species.

The Queensland Government is way behind reaching the 2025 water quality targets set out in the Reef 2050 Plan. It has only cut sediment and inorganic nitrogen levels by about half the target since 2009 and there’s with only two years left to hit the 2025 target.1

“The government has spent millions of dollars on trying to tackle water pollution through improved land management practices, but reporting shows uptake has been way too slow and the agriculture industry is nowhere near meeting the land practice change targets committed to by the Australian and Queensland governments. In response to the lack of uptake, the government enacted Reef laws in 2019 mandating all farmers and graziers improve land management practices to a minimum standard. If the government is going to continue to invest in land practice change, we need more transparency and stronger outcomes tied to the government’s funding to ensure public funds are not wasted and contribute to meeting the Reef water quality targets.

“The Queensland Government needs to do something drastic to improve Reef water quality if it has any hope of meeting the 2025 Reef water quality targets. In addition to ensuring the Reef laws are working effectively, the government should be spending on initiatives that give best bang for buck in improving Reef water quality, such as restoring riverbanks, gullies, wetlands, mangroves and seagrasses, which would have huge benefits for water quality, biodiversity, fisheries and climate.

“Restored wetlands can lead to a 20-50% reduction in nitrogen inputs into the inshore Reef areas. Some treatment wetlands have the capacity to be five times more effective at reducing nitrate compared with improved land management strategies.”