Reef res­cue plan

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - AN­GELIQUE PAT­TER­SON

LO­CAL cane grow­ers re­main in the dark about whether the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s suc­cess­ful Reef Res­cue ini­tia­tive will be ex­tended.

Reef Res­cue fo­cuses on im­prov­ing water qual­ity en­ter­ing the Great Bar­rier Reef by as­sist­ing land man­agers to adopt im­proved land man­age­ment prac­tices.

The five-year, $200 mil­lion pro­gram aims to re­duce dis­solved nu­tri­ents and chem­i­cals from agri­cul­tural lands to the reef by 25 per cent and sed­i­ment by 10 per cent, with a mon­i­tor­ing pro­gram to track the water qual­ity, by the end of 2012.

Over 3600 land man- agers, in­clud­ing dozens from the Moss­man re­gion, have taken part but the pro­gram’s fu­ture re­mains un­clear de­spite the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment an­nounc­ing con­tin­ued fund­ing for the $2.2 bil­lion Caring for our Coun­try pro­gram.

Moss­man Cane­grow­ers chair­man Drew Wat­son said farm­ers would con­tinue im­prov­ing their prac­tices but any cuts to Reef Res­cue would “slow up in­no­va­tion”.

“We’ve all been work­ing in the right di­rec­tion and that pro­gram ac­cel­er­ated those ad­vances,” he said.

“Ide­ally we want the Reef Res­cue fund­ing al­lo­cated as it’s eas­ier to deal with than go­ing through broader schemes - we’re used to how it works and the sys­tem is work­ing.”

Cane­grow­ers has been in dis­cus­sions with the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and se­nior man­ager for en­vi­ron­ment and nat­u­ral re­sources Matt Keal­ley said they are wait­ing to hear about the fu­ture of Reef Res­cue.

“Try­ing to get fur­ther in­for­ma­tion out of the Gov­ern­ment has been dif­fi­cult,” he said.

“I have been in­formed there’s an out­line for the Caring for our Coun­try doc­u­ment ex­pected to be re­leased in the next cou­ple of weeks.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal Min­is­ter Tony Burke said the Caring for our Coun­try pro­gram will con­tinue for an­other five years but would not shed any light on the fu­ture of Reef Res­cue.

“Make no mis­take this Gov­ern­ment is pas­sion­ately com­mit­ted to pro­tec­tion of the GBR - there’s years of good work, changed farm prac­tices and im­proved pro­tec­tion which only ex­ist be­cause we im­ple­mented Reef Res­cue,” he said.

“This con­tin­ued fund­ing will sup­port a broad range of groups to un­der­take high qual­ity nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment projects that are im­por­tant to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and con­trib­ute to the health of the en­vi­ron­ment into the fu­ture.”

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