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Lakeland growers meet with State Government

A new Environmentally Relevant Activity (ERA) standard for cropping and horticulture is being developed by the Queensland Government for the Great Barrier Reef catchment.

Representatives from the Office of the Great Barrier Reef (OGBR) met with producers in Lakeland on Friday 29 January to discuss the new or expanded cropping and horticulture standards (the standards), which are open for public feedback until 17 February 2021.

The standards can be viewed at https://www.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0026/119069/cropping-horticulture-era-standard-draft.pdf

The consultation session covered key aspects of the regulations including

  • activities that require a permit,
  • what type of permit applies, and
  • what are the standard conditions?

Feedback from this meeting, and sessions held in other Great Barrier Reef catchments, will be considered for incorporation into the standard conditions before finalisation.

The standards will apply to new or expanded commercial horticulture and cropping activities greater than five hectares, that don’t meet the cropping history test. Commercial producers within Great Barrier Reef catchments will need to obtain an environmental authority (permit) before any activities take place.

The standards aim to maintain or improve water quality by setting new farm design requirements and farm management practices that aim to avoid and mitigate fine sediment and dissolved inorganic nutrient loss into the Great Barrier Reef catchments*.

In addition to the OGBR discussion, the Department of Environment and Science’s Ryan Turner gave a presentation on water quality monitoring in the Normanby River.

The Normanby catchment continues to meet its fine sediment and particulate nutrient reduction targets under the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan—reefplan.qld.gov.au

Producers agreed that they’re keen to carry on with, and to expand, water quality monitoring programs that continue to improve their nutrient and sediment management practices, and will soon be able to access up to date data on pesticide levels through a new Pesticide Reporting Portal.

* When fine sediment washes into rivers and out into the reef it blocks the sunlight needed for seagrass and coral to grow. Increased nutrient levels harm corals by increasing crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks and promoting algal growth. These pressures, combined with extreme rain, heat and other stresses, reduce the resilience of marine ecosystems and make it more difficult for the system to recover from bleaching events or cyclones.