Report: moderate progress halting fertiliser run-off to reef

Progress made, but the numbers are still well short of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan
Progress made, but the numbers are still well short of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan Max Fleet

THE newly released Great Barrier Reef Report for 2013-14 has found the Mackay-Whitsunday region has made moderate progress in reducing fertiliser seeping into waterways.

Queensland Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said dissolved inorganic nitrogen derived from fertiliser was particularly concerning because of its link with crown of thorns starfish outbreaks.

The crown of thorns starfish have been responsible for 42% of coral loss over the past 30 years.

"The Mackay-Whitsunday region has made moderate progress towards the dissolved inorganic nitrogen target of 50% by 2018 with an estimated 24% reduction since 2009," Dr Miles said.

But he said cane growers could use modern technologies to make sure as much fertiliser as possible was taken up by the plant, rather than ending up in the rivers and streams feeding into the reef.

The main pollutants in the area that need to be tackled are pesticides and nitrogen from sugarcane.

"As at June 2014, only 20% of sugarcane lands in the Mackay-Whitsunday region were managed using best management practice systems for nutrients and only 19% of grazing lands were managed using best management practice systems for streambank erosion," Dr Miles said.

"These numbers are well short of the Reef Water Quality Protection Plan's 90% target by 2018."

Canegrowers Mackay chairman Kevin Borg said the data did not reflect the effort the sector had put in over the last several years.

"Our growers have engaged in 1484 separate projects focussed on improving farming practices and water quality under the Federal Government's Reef Rescue I initiative," he said.

But he acknowledged more needed to be done.

Dr Miles also said the report found the fight against poor water quality across the state had flatlined.

He said the government was working towards its Reef 2050 Long Term Sustainability Plan and had committed $100 million over five years to reef protection programs.

Dr Miles urged more growers and graziers to adopt better practices to improve water quality.

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All farming, all regions

As at June 2014 the area of land managed using best management practice systems for each industry across the Great Barrier Reef was:

Sugarcane: approximately 13% for nutrients, 30% for pesticides and 23% for soil.

Grazing erosion management: approximately 28% for pastures, 47% for streambanks and 24% for gullies.

Horticulture: approximately 23% for nutrients, 45% for pesticides and 71% for soil.


Mackay/Whitsunday region:

There was a 5ha gain due to modification of natural wetlands between 2009 and 2013

There was a 539ha loss of riparian vegetation between 2009-13.

Late dry season ground cover in 2013-14 was 88%.

Source: Queensland Government


Mackay/Whitsunday area's marine condition

The overall marine condition remained poor in 2013-14

Inshore seagrass improved from very poor to poor condition

Inshore coral reefs remained in moderate condition

Source: Queensland Government

Topics:  farming fertiliser great barrier reef mackay soil

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