Strict reef regulations get nod

Great Barrier Reef regulation rules get committee approval


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Farmers and agricultural groups say the Great Barrier Reef will not benefit from new regulations which are too strict to achieve the desired outcome.

Farmers and agricultural groups say the Great Barrier Reef will not benefit from new regulations which are too strict to achieve the desired outcome.

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The committee charged with reviewing controversial new regulations designed to protect the Great Barrier Reef has recommended the bill be passed, with no amendments.

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THE committee charged with reviewing controversial new regulations designed to protect the Great Barrier Reef has recommended the bill be passed, with no amendments.

The parliamentary committee handed down its report into the Environmental Protection (Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019, supporting the introduction of the bill in its entirety.

This is despite agricultural industry groups and farmers raising a raft of concerns about the bill at public hearings held in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Bundaberg earlier this month.

A total of 238 public submissions were also handed up during the short consultation period.

AgForce CEO Michael Guerin likened the process to the vegetation management laws which were forced through parliament last year.

"We're incredibly disappointed and what will suffer is the environment in the same way that has happened with the vegetation management laws of 2018.

"When good science, practical experience and knowledge of regional and rural communities is fundamentally ignored, the proposed legislation puts in place minimum standards and ignores best practice and punishes those seeking to innovate.

"It has no regard for the input from industry and regional communities as provided during the committee process.

Mr Guerin said it was galling that the knowledge of farmers and industry groups who had put forward submissions and attended hearings had been effectively ignored.

"The people who run agricultural enterprises who have a huge amount of work and gave so generously of their time due to genuine concerns about a global icon being the reef, is galling.

"The most troubling is what is going to suffer is the reef, in the same way vegetation laws degrade the environment and reduce biodiversity, ignoring good science and community input means the reef will suffer the most."

Burdekin canegrower Owen Menkens made his views clear at the Townsville hearing.

Burdekin canegrower Owen Menkens made his views clear at the Townsville hearing.

Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan maintains the regulations were not workable and counter productive.

"We are pretty frustrated they've recommended it should be passed and there doesn't appear to be any amendments," Mr Galligan said.

"Hundreds of farmers who showed up to the committee meetings, with a lot of information to provide, were hopeful we would have provided to the committee information so amendments could be made to make it workable.

"We felt that they heard so much from so many people that some of it would have been taken on board."

Mr Galligan said the bill ignored the good work that had been done by farmers over the last decade to protect the reef.

"It is really disappointing, there is a fair bit of frustration and anger, when an enormous amount of work has been undertaken in the last 10 years to achieve outcomes the government is now saying hasn't been enough."

Queensland Farmers Federation president Stuart Armitage said it was disappointing that the concerns of industry groups and farmers had been disregarded.

"It follows on from tree clearing regulations. There was a mountain of consultation done and people put in a lot of time and effort into that, the ag industry as a whole did and again, there's not one thing that needs to be changed.

The Australian Banana Growers Council also made a submission.

The Australian Banana Growers Council also made a submission.

"It is not very encouraging when you see there is absolutely no input taken from all the different information brought in during the consultation period which we asked for.

"QFF was afraid this would happen and again we are slammed pretty hard as agriculture.

"They just can't keep flogging a dead horse, it is more than ag that is having an effect on the reef and the most effective outcome will be to work together."

The bill was introduced in state parliament on February 27, with public submissions closing on March 15 and hearings held during April.

The Innovation, Tourism Development and Environment Committee which considered the bill comprised of three sitting Labor MPs, two LNP members and one independent.

The LNP members, Scenic Rim MP Jon Krause, and Theodore MP Mark Boothman provided a statement of reservation in the report, which was scathing of both the bill and the Palaszczuk Labor Government.

"From the introduction of this bill and throughout the committee process it has been blatantly obvious that the only legislative outcome being sought by the Palaszczuk Labor Government is one of political expediency," they wrote.

Cairns region Canegrowers chairman Stephen Calcagno says enthusiasm for innovation in the industry is waning amid shifting expectations.

Cairns region Canegrowers chairman Stephen Calcagno says enthusiasm for innovation in the industry is waning amid shifting expectations.

"There's no reason to rush these changes and punish regional communities for poorly designed laws.

"We've got to get the changes right to ensure the best environmental protection for the Great Barrier Reef while protecting the rights of land owners and the rights of agricultural producers that regional communities depend upon. These outcomes are not mutually exclusive and can be achieved."

Independent Noosa MP Sandy Bolton MP also attached a statement, expressing two areas of concern with the bill around the lack of resourcing and targeted assistance to help land owners be compliant.

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