Glen Isla sugarcane grower and Proserpine Cangrowers director Glenn Clarke says it will be “business as usual” for canegrowers but hoped the state election would bring change. Picture: File
Glen Isla sugarcane grower and Proserpine Cangrowers director Glenn Clarke says it will be “business as usual” for canegrowers but hoped the state election would bring change. Picture: File

Disappointing report has Prossie growers looking to election

THE state election is the next chance canegrowers have to see reef regulations amended after the long-awaited findings of a Senate inquiry were tagged as "disappointing".

On Thursday, the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs Committee released two conflicting reports on the Queensland Government's controversial reef regulations.

The majority report listed eight recommendations including improving transparency of data used to inform the program while LNP Senators Susan McDonald, Gerard Rennick and Matthew Canavan penned a dissenting report.

Glen Isla sugarcane grower and Proserpine Canegrowers director Glenn Clarke said it was "disappointing to say the least" that the committee did not reach a consensus.

"What it means for us is that it's business as usual, nothing has changed, it's just that we have no potential reprieve on these reef regulations," he said.

Canegrowers Proserpine manager Mike Porter says the state election will be critical in determining the future of reef regulations. Photo: Laura Thomas
Canegrowers Proserpine manager Mike Porter says the state election will be critical in determining the future of reef regulations. Photo: Laura Thomas

The Senate inquiry explored regulations that were enacted in a bid to improve the quality of run-off water into the Great Barrier Reef, how reef science was informing the policy and the transparency surrounding the data.

The regulations were introduced in 2019 and place strict limits and monitoring measures on cane farmers, including a push to reduce end-of-catchment pesticide loads by at least 60 per cent.

Mr Clarke said this would take a big toll on farmers and the economy as the Whitsundays and other towns along the east coast had been aided by the sugar industry while international tourism remains on hold.

Canegrowers Proserpine president Michael Porter also emphasised the importance of a sustainable industry for the state's economy.

"We're sort of experiencing during the pandemic a little bit of a focus on agriculture, simply because of the fact that tourism and manufacturing are feeling the pinch," he said.

 

More than 100 Whitsunday cane growers and industry professionals gathered to hear Green Shirts Movement national co-ordinator Marty Bella speak about standing up against new Queensland reef laws last year. Picture: File
More than 100 Whitsunday cane growers and industry professionals gathered to hear Green Shirts Movement national co-ordinator Marty Bella speak about standing up against new Queensland reef laws last year. Picture: File

"Agriculture can continue and the state can continue to build through agriculture."

He said the regulations, some of which don't take hold until June 2021, would mean many farmers may just stop growing certain crops.

Canegrowers commissioned a report that estimated Queensland sugar growers could lose $1.3 billion over 10 years if the regulations were imposed.

However, Mr Porter said while the inquiry meant it was "business as usual" for farmers, the state election would be the key to any future change.

"We're working with the politicians at the moment during the election campaign to see whether there's any appetite for political parties to reconsider the position or repeal the regulations," he said.

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Mr Clarke also said the ballot box would play a big role in the future of the industry.

"These reef regulations are state legislation, not federal," he said.

"Our only chances there, are a possible change of government or the potential hung parliament with the balance of power going to a minority party.

"Of course, if there's no change to the election and the current government continues, we know the path we're on to."

Canegrowers released an eight-point plan for candidates coming into the state election, which included "cutting red tape on farming which doesn't help the Great Barrier Reef".

You can read the candidate's responses here.


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