AgForce tries to make Government see sense on flawed Reef Bill

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AgForce tries to make Government see sense on flawed Reef Bill
Tuesday, 26 Mar 2019

AgForce has gone in to bat for farmers throughout Queensland, making an impassioned and compelling submission at the public hearing in Brisbane into the State Government's deeply flawed Reef bill. 
The inadequate consultation for the Bill is now over, but in the 10 days it was open the Committee received 175 written submissions, many from producers, expressing opposition to the Bill in its current form. 

Speaking after the hearing, AgForce CEO Mike Guerin said the "token" consultation was designed to prevent the widespread opposition to the Bill from being aired publicly.

"Ten days is a ridiculously short time in which to expect busy producers to digest the complex Bill and write a detailed submission," Mr Guerin said.

"And the only public hearing took place about as far from the Reef as you can get and still say you're in Queensland."

The proposed Reef regulations will place a considerable burden on all cattle, grain, banana, and cane farmers in the six reef catchments - an area that covers about a third of the State and extends as far as 800 kilometres from the coast - with restrictive practices that will severely hamper their operations and involve onerous record-keeping and reporting.

Mr Guerin said AgForce had done its utmost to represent AgForce members and oppose the introduction of more regulations.

"We are now in the hands of Queensland Government to decide on the right path for best opportunity for Reef water quality and Reef health," he said.

"But blanket regulations over the entire agricultural area east of the Great Dividing Range is not the answer. 

"Farmers care for their land and they care for the Reef. More regulation on farmers sends a message that government doesn't trust them and that farmers are more of a risk to Reef health than climate change, warming ocean temperatures and choppy waters from destructive tropical cyclones.

"If the government is genuinely serious about the health of the Reef, then the best approach is to target the small high-risk areas of erosion near the coastline.

 "Focus limited government and private resources into fixing the problem areas, not putting in place measures that disadvantage graziers and grain growers and don't effectively target Reef health to begin with."

Mr Guerin said the agricultural sector had led the way in enacting measures that significantly reduce the risk to the Reef.

"The agricultural industry has adopted a range of sustainable and efficient farming practices, while at the same time increasing food production. 

"And new agricultural developments already have enough checks and processes to ensure feasibility through existing state-wide Planning and Vegetation Management Acts. There is no need for further restrictive and costly Reef-centric regulations for farm design.

"What I now hope is that Committee politicians and the Department of Environment and Science take heed of the feedback they received from AgForce, and from everyone who spoke out today in favour of Reef protection without the unnecessary, expensive red tape and regulation that won't provide any benefit to water quality or the Reef's long-term well-being.

"I suppose at the end of all this we're left asking ourselves, Does the State Government trust farmers?"

Unless the Parliamentary Committee agrees to extend the consultation and reporting period, the anticipated date for the outcome of the report is 12 April 2019. The public hearings will appear in Hansard in due course.

The complete list of written submissions to the Committee can be viewed here https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-committees/committees/ITDEC/inquiries/current-inquiries/16EnvProGBRPM

Media Contacts: David Vogler 0418 733 102 | Hannah Leu 0427 626 853

AgForce tries to make Government see sense on flawed Reef Bill

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