Existing Reef protection regulations

We recognise and applaud the many producers and graziers who are managing their land sustainably, and who have adopted best management practices. We also know that others could do better.

Strong scientific evidence confirms that significant quantities of fertiliser, pesticides and sediment from agricultural and industrial land uses are entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. The reduction in water quality increases the risk of serious long-term effects on Reef health and decreases the Reef's resilience to pressures such as climate change and ocean acidification.

To help improve Reef water quality outcomes, there are existing Reef protection regulations for sugarcane and grazing properties in the high priority regions of Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay Whitsunday.

The new legislation sets minimum practice agricultural standards for all sugarcane, beef cattle grazing, banana, grains and horticulture production in five of the six Reef regions - the Wet Tropics, Burdekin, Mackay Whitsunday, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary. The regulated minimum practice standards will not be switched on in the Cape York region at this stage as the water quality targets have been met.

New and expanded cropping and horticulture activities over five hectares in all six Reef regions, including Cape York, will have to comply with farm design standards and any minimum practice standards for the crop being sown.

The regulations will also apply to operators of new or changed industrial land use activities such as new sewage treatment plants, aquaculture facilities or mines that plan to release nutrients and sediments.

What assistance is available?

There are a number of programs that provide producers with access to funding and support to transition to improved farming practices.

This includes a Farming in Reef Catchments Rebate of up to $1000 for eligible graziers, sugarcane producers and banana growers to help offset the costs of obtaining professional and agronomic advice from an Accredited Agricultural Adviser.

There are also extension programs that include property visits with landholders to provide tailored advice. The aim is to educate and ensure that farmers and graziers understand what’s required under the regulations and work with them to meet these requirements.

Industry developed Best Management Practice (BMP) programs are focussed on improving productivity, profitability and sustainability of farm enterprises. They include the Smartcane (BMP) program, Banana BMP program and Hort360 Great Barrier Reef.

The new $5.72 million Grazing Resilience and Sustainable Solutions (GRASS) Program aims to improve poor and degraded land by delivering one-on-one support for graziers in the Burdekin, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions and tailored Land Management Plans. It includes $1.43 million in financial incentives for infrastructure improvements. The program is being delivered in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), NQ Dry Tropics, Fitzroy Basin Association and Burnett Mary Regional Group. For more information, contact DAF or your local regional Natural Resource Management body.

The Banana BMP program is receiving an additional $1 million for incentives and on-ground extension support to help banana growers, primarily in the Wet Tropics and Cape York regions, to undertake actions that will reduce sediment and nutrient run-off. This includes sediment basins, contour banks, waterway/drainage upgrades or constructed wetlands. For more information, contact the Australian Banana Growers’ Council.

Existing Reef protection regulations

In this guide:

  1. How does this impact cane farmers?
  2. How does this impact graziers?
  3. Impacts of nutrient and pesticide run-off from cane farming
  4. Impacts of sediment run-off from grazing
  5. Support programs and tools for cane farmers
  6. Support programs and tools for graziers
  7. Best management practice in reef catchments
  8. Managing agricultural chemicals
  9. Nutrient calculation and soil sampling

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