‘Gutted’: Canegrowers say reef laws fight not over
THE region’s gutted and “demoralised” cane growers say their fight is not over after controversial reef laws were passed in Queensland parliament this afternoon.
The legislation is supported by new regulations, to be finalised this year, that will set minimum standards for run-off in catchments that flow into the Great Barrier Reef.
The move has been slammed by Canegrowers chairman Paul Schembri, who said it would give “significant additional powers” to the government, enabling it to demand farm data and allow a bureaucrat to set and change farming standards.
Canegrowers Mackay chairman and Plane Creek cane grower Kevin Borg said many in the industry felt crushed by the outcome.
“The growers are demoralised — there’s no doubt about that,” Mr Borg said.
“With the drought, water and electricity costing the earth, the cost of production up … Growers need some certainty into the future.
“When you get so many things hitting at one time, people start wondering ‘what is my future?’”.
He said Canegrowers was now considering its next move.
“We would like to be able to think we could still sit down with the government and reason with them,” Mr Borg said.
“We will probably consider what the future is in fighting this.”
While the State Government has made four key changes relating to the legislation, LNP Shadow Environment Minister David Crisafulli said he had been stopped from putting forward three amendments.
These involved ensuring power was not handed to “Brisbane bureaucrats” to change farming standards, removing power to allow the State Government to demand farmers’ data and the introduction of a 10-year grace period for agricultural environmentally relevant activities carried out in the Burnett-Mary catchment area.
Mr Crisafulli described Labor’s five-year commitment to no further changes to the minimum standards in the regulations as a “complete con”.
“Promising no further changes to regulations Queenslanders still haven’t seen is an appalling way to treat the public and a kick in the guts to farmers,” he said.
“The LNP will continue to fight tooth and nail for sensible laws that back jobs and protect the environment.”
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the State Government would continue to support the agricultural sector with an extra $5.72 million under the new Grazing Resilience and Sustainable Solutions Program.
This includes $1.43 million in financial incentives for infrastructure improvements, such as fencing, water troughs and erosion works.
The government will also be offering $10.1 million through the Farming in Reef Catchments Rebate scheme, which will soon be available.