The discussion paper was released Thursday.
The discussion paper was released Thursday.

Cane growers may cop extra rules for Great Barrier Reef

BANANA, horticulture and grain producers are set to be brought into line with cane growers, by enforcing extra regulation on their practises for the betterment of the Great Barrier Reef.

However the State Government's reef regulations discussion paper released on Thursday also suggested "improving" the minimum standards already in place for cane growers and graziers.

While Canegrowers Queensland chairman Paul Schembri said it was good to see government "casting a wider net" and ensuring all farmers improved their practises, not just sugar cane growers, he said he had never been a fan of "the big stick approach".

He warned forcing regulation on growers may result in them achieving only minimum compliance, and missing out on powerful partnerships like the Project Catalyst or BMP Program.

Great Barrier Reef minister Steve Miles said the paper highlights the need to ramp up progress on water quality targets.

"Sadly, during the recent Climate Action Roundtable in Cairns, we learned there have been increased reports of coral bleaching and disease from offshore Mackay to the Far North," Mr Miles said.

"While much good work is being done by business, industry and the many dedicated landholders using best management practices, we know more needs to happen to improve the health of our waterways and the reef."

The regulation package, which will broaden and enhance current reef regulations, forms part of the Queensland Government's response to the recommendations of the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce.

These regulatory proposals include setting minimum practice standards across the banana, horticulture and grains sectors, and improving the minimum standards that already apply for sugarcane and grazing.

They will also strengthen the existing water quality standards for urban development, stormwater management and other intensive land uses.

"We are not starting from scratch with this approach and want to reward existing efforts," he said.

"Producers who are accredited against best management practice or similar programs that provide the ability to meet minimum regulated standards will not be required to take any further action. They will also remain outside the focus of compliance programs."

The regulatory proposals also look at setting water pollution load limits for each of the 35 reef catchments to manage new development in high polluting catchments that may increase the amount of pollutants flowing to the reef.

Mr Miles said the regulatory approach was only one of a number of measures being implemented through the government's additional $90 million investment in reef water quality.

He encouraged people to provide feedback on the discussion paper, which is open for public comment until 7 April, 2017.

"We've been working with key organisations and industry groups and are now keen to hear from land managers and the wider community," he said.

The discussion paper is available at www.qld.gov.au/greatbarrierreef


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