Reef Hearing

The chair of the Australian Banana Growers’ Council has again argued that Best Management Practice is a better approach to improving water quality than reef regulations. 

Stephen Lowe gave evidence to a Queensland Parliamentary committee hearing examining the introduction of a Bill by Member for Hinchinbrook Nick Dametto (Katter’s Australia Party). The Bill sought to repeal all amendments made to the Environmental Protection Act 1994 by the state government in 2019 – namely the regulations around minimum standards for managing soil and nutrient loss from farms and new cropping land. 

Mr Lowe told the hearing, held in June, that prior to regulation the majority of banana growers already had high environmental outcomes and excellent farm practices. 

“As an industry, we’ve been reducing the amount of nutrient applied to crops over the last 10-15 years, driven by Best Management Practice,” he explained. “We can apply on an as-needed basis – just a little every so often.” 

He also outlined increasing consumer demand for good environmental practices and the fact that at least one major retailer requires growers to be accredited to the Freshcare Environmental program before they will accept fruit. 

Mr Lowe pointed to the Scientific Consensus Statement for the Great Barrier Reef which showed the banana industry contributed just 4 per cent of the overall loss of dissolved inorganic nitrogen in the Wet Tropics. 

He noted the Statement showed bananas had no impact in the Cape York-Lakeland region and again called for growers in that area to be excluded from regulation. 

“We’ve worked closely with the Department as an industry and we’re happy that government has listened to requests for their minimum rates to align with BMP. But those minimum rates are only a best guess – more research needs to be done and the regulation has gone ahead regardless.” 

When asked whether there was a middle ground to be reached, Mr Lowe responded that the market is the best mechanism to establish standards and therefore Freshcare Environmental accredited growers should be exempt from the regulations. 

Mr Lowe was supported by the ABGC’s Strategy Manager Michelle McKinlay. 

There is another public hearing on September 3, with a report to be handed down in October, however it unlikely the Bill will pass in the current Parliament.