A diver visiting the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: File
A diver visiting the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: File

Impact on reef “greatly exaggerated,” says cane chief

INDEPENDENT science, interfering with farmers and the future of the Great Barrier Reef.

These were recurring points brought up during day two of a Senate inquiry into the impact of the State Government's reef regulations on farmers and farming pesticides in water run off on the reef.

In his opening speech, Chairman of Burdekin District Canegrowers Philip Marano called for an end of government interference in cane farmers' livelihoods, saying the legislation was based on misinformation.

Mr Marano said the environmental impact of cane farming on the Great Barrier Reef had been "greatly exaggerated."

He said canegrowers wanted to work with the government and adhere to policies based on independent science, subject to peer review.

Mr Marano suggested the State Government could work with cane farmers by supporting alternative uses for sugar cane such as biodegradable plastics and bio-fuels.

WWF Australia Head of Oceans Richard Leck said farm run-off water did impact the Great Barrier Reef and that impact needed to be minimised as much as possible.

He said the primary reason for the regulation was to change behaviour and introduce best management outcomes.

Mr Leck commended the cane farmers who adopted best management practices, but said those who didn't put 2025 Great Barrier Reef water quality targets in jeopardy.

"Those not participating are essentially free riding, and undermining the effort and investment paid by their peers," Mr Leck said about growers taking part in best management practices.

Australian Marine Conservation Society spokeswoman Imogin Zethoven said the AMCS was "servery concerned about the future of the reef," and it was easy to "lose sight of the global significance of what is on our door step."

According to Ms Zethoven, the major threats to the reef were climate change, land-based water run off and direct human interference.

She said the 2017 Scientific Consensus Report on the Reef highlighted changes to protect the reef "were not rapid nor wide spread enough to improver or even maintain water quality."

Ms Zethoven said the key to saving the reef was to implement the kind of legislation which is under the committee's microscope, battle climate change and do everything possible to lessen local impact.