Existing Reef protection regulations

How does this impact cane farmers?

The science about the state of the Great Barrier Reef is clear. The Queensland Government is focusing attention on the uptake of key farming practices that directly reduce the likelihood of nutrients and pesticide run-off into the Reef.

Compliance activities

Additional officers are on the ground to encourage faster uptake of regulated standards through awareness, extension and targeted compliance activities. The aim is to communicate and educate, not to penalise.

The focus is catchments and critical sub-catchments where science is showing us there is a problem. Cane farmers are also being encouraged to adopt best management practices, through the voluntary Smartcane BMP.

How to comply with Reef protection regulations

In 2010 Reef protection requirements that directly relate to sugarcane farming were brought in under the Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act).

This Great Barrier Reef catchments map (PDF, 1.5MB) shows the areas that the regulations relate to.

The regulations require all cane farmers in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin and Mackay-Whitsundays to:

How to improve cane farming practices

You are encouraged to adopt best management practices, for example, through the voluntary Smartcane BMP.

The industry developed Smartcane BMP program, is a robust and practical system that is about improving productivity, profitability and sustainability of farm enterprises. As part of the Smartcane BMP, growers assess their practices to determine if they are ‘below’, ‘at’, or ‘above’ the industry standard. If their activities are below the industry standard, the system shows what they would need to do to reach that standard. Help is also available through local facilitators.

Meeting the Smartcane BMP ‘industry standard’ in the following modules will also help you meet the regulated standards:

  • Soil Health and Nutrient Management
  • Irrigation and Drainage Management
  • Weed, Pest and Disease Management.

Cane farmers who have adopted best management practices have saved money and maintained productivity, while assisting in minimising the risk of nutrients, pesticides and sediment leaving your property and impacting the health of the Reef. For more information or to register for Smartcane BMP, please contact the CANEGROWERS BMP Project Manager, Mick Quirk on 0408 748 141 or email

In addition, there are a number of programs and support tools provided by the Australian and Queensland Governments and industry organisations to help cane farmers adopt best farming practices. Read more about the support programs and tools for cane farmers.

I am already undertaking best farming practices, do I need to do anything more?

Congratulations for managing your farm sustainably. However, you should ensure that you are complying with the steps listed under how to comply with Reef protection regulations.

More information

For more information, please email or call 13 QGOV (13 74 68).

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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