Update: Proposed Queensland Reef Regulations


September 13, 2019

Update: Proposed Queensland Reef Regulations

The Australian Banana Growers’ Council continues to advocate strongly for our industry’s best interests as the Queensland Government moves ahead with its proposed Reef Regulations.

Meeting the Minister

The ABGC chair, CEO and Strategy Manager this week met with the Queensland Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch, providing another opportunity to put forward our case to Government to reconsider impractical aspects of the regulations under the Bill that is currently before Parliament and which jeopardize our industry.

An issue of particular concern is that the regulations would classify new horticultural development – on property already owned by growers and on future farms – as new Agricultural Environmentally Relevant Activity.

These so-called “greenfield” provisions are in addition to the proposed standards for nutrients and sediment and require farmers to implement expensive and impractical measures that don’t take into account location, landscape or climatic conditions. The measures are likely to have a devastating impact on our $600m industry and regional development as a whole. You can read our latest media release on the topic here and read the full proposal here.

It has become clear that the Reef Bill will more than likely pass through Parliament soon. Though the exact date is still unknown, there’s no doubt time is running out for you to have your say. While the regulations may pass, there is still opportunity to influence the Government’s thinking about the details proposed. The ABGC will continue to fight for a fair outcome for growers – but it is your opinions and real-life examples that can really drive our concerns home.

While the industry as a whole is passionate about improving water quality and protecting the Great Barrier Reef, we want to be able to do this in a way that is practical, delivers results and doesn’t hinder regional economic development.  

Thank you to industry

Thank you to all growers who have supported our efforts to convey this message and to those who have submitted their own thoughts to the Department of Environment and Science. If you would still like to have your say, contact the ABGC on 07 4015 2797.

Updated proposed standards for bananas

The Department has released an updated version of the standards for banana cultivation (the ‘Regs’) for review and comment.  There is also now a DRAFT Prescribed method for Bananas with more practical guidance to banana farmers in Reef catchments. 

Key changes and ongoing challenges

These two documents include significant improvements since the original drafts provided to industry back in 2017.  The original standards included compulsory upper limits for nitrogen of 250 kg/ha/year for plant and 350 kg/ha/year for ratoon and phosphorous of 60 kg/ha/year with no ability to adapt for individual farms.  They also included highly prescriptive measures to reduce sediment loss.

The ABGC, alongside a group of interested growers, has shown the Department why those standards in the proposed regulation did not acknowledge the different farming situations, experience and practicalities within our industry.

Consequently, the revised draft standards that would apply now allow growers to apply nitrogen at 280 kg/ha/year for plant crops and 400 kg/ha/year for ratoon crops and 60 kg/ha/year for phosphorus without the need for a nutrient management plan.  If a grower wants to exceed these rates they must develop and use a nutrient management plan, based on regular leaf testing in line with current best practice recommendations.  The ABGC will continue to recommend that all growers use a nutrient management planning process on their farm.

Previously the Department proposed that leaf test results for N and P linked to increased or decreased amounts of N.  Growers provided feedback that this was not practical as it didn’t allow for growers to monitor trends.  The latest version uses a simplified approach to determine whether extra N can be used.  The cut-off is now 3.5% in leaf tests. Check out pages 10-11 of the methodology for more information.

The minimum standards for sediment loss control have also undergone significant evolution to better reflect farming realities.   An allowance has been made to include the ability to renovate rows as necessary.  The requirement for 60% ground cover in new blocks now applies prior to the wet season, acknowledging the need for growers to have time to establish ground cover in these blocks.

Growers have been given more flexibility in how they minimise soil and surface runoff to reduce erosion, with the specific measures now given as recommendations.

Incidentally, the proposed standards would apply 12 months after the Bill is passed in the Wet Tropics region and 3 years after in the Cape York region.

There still remain some areas of concern within the documents.  These include the retention of the need to keep records about yield.  The ABGC and growers have expressed concern about the way this information might be used and how yield is not a simple measure like it is in other industries.  Additionally, it would appear that a nutrient management plan must be written by a person external to the grower.  We know that there will be some growers that have the training and experience to write their own plans and we would like this to be an acceptable practice.

More information

Please get in touch with the ABGC on 07 4015 2797.




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