An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: File
An aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef. Photo: File

Scientist says cane farming impact on reef a ‘drop in bucket’

A SENATE inquiry into controversial reef reforms has heard the impact of farming pesticides on the Great Barrier Reef is a 'drop in the bucket' compared to other threats.

The inquiry focused primarily on the impact of the State Government's reef regulations on farmers and of farming pesticides in water run off on the reef.

Fraser Coast canegrowers had campaigned against the reforms, which they say unfairly punishes an industry which has already taken significant steps to reduce impact on the environment.

Aaron Davis, Principal Research Scientist at aquatic research group TropWater, told the inquiry few pesticides were detected on the outer reef.

Instead, more concentrations of chemicals were found in estuaries and waterways.

Dr Paul Hardisty from the Australian Institute of Marine Science said research had recorded a connection between coral growth rates to pesticide water run off and didn't believe the reduction of coral was due to farm practices.

Instead, AIMS said the damaged caused to the reef was due to global warming and action needed to be taken to prevent large sections of the reef from dying by the middle of the century.

Independent scientist Dr Peter Ridd said the Great Barrier Reef's coral was "utterly unaffected by the pesticides."

Dr Ridd said pesticides were in such low concentrations on the reef they were barely worth recording.

"It is a drop in the bucket, the effect of farmers on the Great Barrier Reef," he said and said other things do more damage such as cyclones and global warming.

Chairman of Queensland Canegrowers, Paul Schembri said the organisation took its environmental responsibility very seriously and "farmers have had a gutful of bureaucratic regulation."


Sugar cane. Photo: File
Sugar cane. Photo: File

According to Mr Schembri, the reef protection regulation imposed on cane farmers will cost the Queensland economy $1.3 billion over ten years.

He summarised three important points his organisation presented to the inquiry.

They were, stronger government process to establish quality reef science, the system of assessing where farmers are at regarding the uptake of best management practice is flawed and regulation comes at a cost.

The inquiry continues on Tuesday July 28 from 8:30am to 1pm.