Report calls for reef target acceleration

Cairns [AAP]

More needs to be done to speed up the reduction of harmful run-off making its way into the Great Barrier Reef, a task force has found.

The Reef 2050 plan, which was submitted to UNESCO earlier this year, included goals to reduce nitrogen run-off by up to 80 per cent and total suspended sediment run-off by up to 50 per cent in key catchments by 2025.

An interim report from the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce, released on Monday, suggested the Queensland government should stick to the targets into 2016 and establish regional targets for all pollutants.

‘The Great Barrier Reef is precious – but it is in trouble,’ Queensland’s chief scientist and task force chairman Dr Geoff Garrett AO said.

‘We need to take stronger action and we need to do it now.’

The task force found global warming was the biggest threat to the reef and improving water quality gave it the best possible chance of surviving.

But it said significantly reducing sediment would take more funds than governments would commit to and recommended other revenue streams be explored, including private-public partnerships.

It also suggested financial incentives for landholders, simplification of governance and regulation of agricultural, urban and industrial activities in reef catchments.

Environment Minister Steven Miles said producers using best practice were being ‘undermined’ by others doing the bare minimum.

‘That’s where we see the roll of regulation to be,’ he said on Monday.

‘We do need to use regulation to encourage that uptake (among reluctant farmers).’

The Palaszczuk government will spend $90 million on improving water quality over the next four years.

WWF-Australia spokesman Sean Hoobin said the report showed current commitments from state and federal governments were not enough to fix the problem.

He also agreed with the taskforce’s calls for ‘transformational change’, including farms being required to hold permits before discharging pollution.

‘Governments have committed to clean water targets for the reef and now they need to deliver on these with action and investment,’ he said.

The state government will take public submissions on the report until February.

A final report is due in May 2016.


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