Reef rescue plan
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.”