AgForce tells farmers to fight

Reef regulation compliance officers to hit Burdekin and Wet Tropics

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Graziers on the Burdekin will be visited by reef regulations compliance officers later this year.

Graziers on the Burdekin will be visited by reef regulations compliance officers later this year.

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Compliance officers are being trained to assist farmers in meeting reef regulation obligations as minimum standards reporting becomes mandatory in select catchments.

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COMPLIANCE officers are being trained to assist farmers in meeting reef regulation obligations as minimum standards reporting becomes mandatory in select catchments.

Burdekin graziers and Wet Tropics banana growers became the first groups required to keep minimum standard records from December 1, 2020 - a step up from the general records farmers have been obligated to keep since December 2019.

The Department of Environment and Science said compliance activities had not yet been undertaken, and staff were focussed on supporting farmers to understand their obligations.

"Since minimum standards for grazing in the Burdekin region and banana growing in the Wet Tropics have only recently been introduced, DES has focussed more on informing and enabling farmers to voluntarily comply with these standards, rather than immediately undertaking individual compliance inspections," a spokesman said.

"DES is in the process of formalising a reef regulation extension program to help farmers understand the new regulatory requirements. DES is also putting together a dedicated team of agricultural compliance officers and compliance activities are expected to commence for graziers in the Burdekin region and banana growers in the Wet Tropics region later this year."

AgForce reef taskforce chair Alex Stubbs said the penalties for non-compliance remained unclear.

"Compliance officers are being trained up as we speak, but we don't really know the process as it has not been explained to us," Mr Stubbs said.

"We believe the first intention will be to do an audit on various businesses and properties, and maybe offer advice and warnings.

"After that you will get a 'pin' that will flag you and most likely the third time there will be a fine or penalty that must be paid."

"AgForce's stance on that is for nobody to pay the fine until the legitimacy of the science underwriting legislation is tested in a court of law.

"In criminal law all evidence must be tested beyond reasonable doubt to be found guilty.

"If the science supporting the legislation is guess work, modelling and assumptions that has been challenged in a number of arenas, including the Senate and by scientists, how could you convict in a criminal court of law?"

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