Overview

The Reef protection regulations are being strengthened to address land-based sources of water pollution flowing to the Great Barrier Reef. This includes agricultural and industrial sources of nutrient and sediment pollution from all six Reef regions—Cape York, Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary.

The new regulations started on 1 December 2019 and will be rolled out over the next three years in different regions based on improved water quality management priorities (see the timeframes).

New requirements

The requirements under the new Reef protection regulations are:

Record keeping

All graziers, sugarcane and banana producers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions must keep records from 1 December 2019 and all grains and horticulture producers must keep records from 1 December 2022.

Agricultural advisers must also keep records from 1 December 2019.

Records need to be kept to demonstrate activities are being undertaken on the property in accordance with the minimum practice agricultural standards.

The government has committed to not commencing the regulation to acquire specific agricultural data from the broader agricultural sector, such as data about fertiliser and chemical use, soil testing and crop yield.

Minimum practice agricultural standards

Primary producers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions will need to comply with industry specific minimum practice agricultural standards. These have been developed for sugarcane, grazing and bananas at this stage, and take effect for different commodities in different regions over the next three years (see the timeframes).

The Queensland Government has made a commitment that the minimum practice agricultural standards will remain substantially unchanged for the next five years (i.e. until 1 December 2024).

Minimum practice agricultural standards for grains and horticulture production have not yet been developed and will not come into effect for three years.

Farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget (sugarcane only)

All sugarcane producers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay Whitsunday regions must have a farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget from 2021 and then in the Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions from 2022.

New or expanded cropping and horticulture activities

New or expanded cropping and horticulture activities in any Reef region on more than five hectares that do not meet the cropping history test will require an environmental authority (permit), subject to farm design standards, from 1 June 2020.

New, expanded or intensified industrial land use activities

New, expanded or intensified regulated industrial land use activities such as sewage and water treatment plants, land-based aquaculture or mining in any Reef region must meet new discharge standards to ensure there is no increase in nutrient or sediment pollutant loads from 1 December 2020.

Drop-in sessions

Producers are invited to attend drop-in sessions which are being held in coming months across the Reef regions. These informal sessions are an opportunity for producers to talk with Queensland Government staff about the new requirements. You can drop in at any point during the session.

Information on the dates and location of further sessions in 2019 and 2020 will be regularly updated.

LocationDateTimeVenue
Tully 13 November 2019 2pm–7pm CWA Hall – 5 Plumb Street, Tully
Innisfail 14 November 2019 2pm–7pm Disaster Management Public Education and Training Centre,
11 Flying Fish Point Road, Innisfail
Charters Towers 19 November 2019 2pm–7pm Arthur Titley Centre, 101 Mosman Street, Charters Towers
Mackay28 November 20192pm–7pm

Blue Room, Mackay Resort Motel
154 Nebo Road, Mackay

Ingham3 December 20192pm–7pm

Jacana Room, TYTO Conference and Event Centre
73-75 Mcilwraith Street, Ingham

Rockhampton5 December 20192pm–7pmCapricorn Motel and Conference Centre, 703-751 Yaamba Road, Parkhurst
Ayr10 December 20192pm–7pmBurdekin Theatre Music Loft, 161 Queen St, Ayr
Bundaberg 12 December 20192pm–7pm

Stan Lohse Function Room, Fairymead House
(located in Bundaberg Botanic Gardens), Thornhill St, Bundaberg North

Reef regions

There are six Reef regions – Cape York, Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary. Refer to the map below.

Enter your property lot and plan number/s into the Reef regulatory requirements map to find out if you are operating in a Reef region.

View a larger version of the Great Barrier Reef catchment and river basins regions map (PDF, 1.3MB).

Why is the Cape York region excluded from most of the new requirements?

Most of the new requirements do not apply to existing producers in the Cape York region as the region has met its water quality targets.

However, from 1 June 2020, any new or expanded commercial cropping and horticulture activities in the Cape York region on more than five hectares that do not meet the cropping history test will require an environmental authority (permit) before the activity or work takes place.

Support for producers

Programs and support tools are provided by the Australian and Queensland governments and industry organisations to help primary producers adopt improved farming practices, where required. These include best management practice programs, extension services and a Farming in Reef Catchments Rebate Scheme.

Compliance

The compliance program is prioritising its efforts on the areas that represent the greatest water quality threat to the Reef.

Compliance officers from the Department of Environment and Science will meet with producers to help them understand what is required under the minimum practice agricultural standards.

While the officers aim to work with producers to meet the requirements, the department will respond to ongoing non-compliance in accordance with its Enforcement Guidelines.

For more information, please refer to the Department of Environment and Science compliance and enforcement information.

More information

Complete this information request form if you would like to receive an information pack by email or post. You can also choose to receive regular updates relating to the Reef protection regulations.

Alternatively, read the fact sheet (PDF, 1,003KB) or email officeofthegbr@des.qld.gov.au.

Supporting materials

Timeframes

CommodityRegion Record keeping requirements Minimum practice agricultural standards Farm nitrogen and phosphorus budget (sugarcane only) New or expanded cropping activities
Sugarcane Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay Whitsunday 1 December 2019 1 December 2019 1 December 2021 1 June 2020
Sugarcane Fitzroy and Burnett Mary 1 December 2019 1 December 2022 1 December 2022 1 June 2020
Sugarcane Cape York N/A N/A N/A 1 June 2020
Grazing Burdekin 1 December 2019 1 December 2020 N/A N/A
Grazing Fitzroy 1 December 2019 1 December 2021 N/A N/A
Grazing Wet Tropics, Mackay Whitsunday and Burnett Mary 1 December 2019 1 December 2022 N/A N/A
Grazing Cape York N/A N/A N/A N/A
Bananas Wet Tropics 1 December 2019 1 December 2020 N/A 1 June 2020
Bananas Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary 1 December 2019 1 December 2022 N/A 1 June 2020
Bananas Cape York N/A N/A N/A 1 June 2020
Grains Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary Proposed 1 December 2022 Proposed 1 December 2022 N/A 1 June 2020
Grains Cape York N/A N/A N/A 1 June 2020
Horticulture Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary Proposed 1 December 2022 Proposed 1 December 2022 N/A 1 June 2020
Horticulture Cape York N/A N/A N/A 1 June 2020

New or changed regulated industrial land use activities will be required to meet new discharge standards from 1 December 2020.