News & Blog Posts · Nature & the Reef

Urgent action needed to reduce water quality impacts

21 August, 2018

In the wake of the state and federal government’s new Water Quality Improvement Plan, stronger action on climate change and regulation of water quality is still urgently needed to give our Reef a fighting chance of being around for future generations, writes law reform solicitor Revel Pointon.

EDO Qld remain concerned that actions by the Federal and Queensland governments to reduce the pollutant load to our Reef are too slow and too weak to meaningfully build the Reef’s resilience.

EDO Qld have been working with the Queensland Government, along with WWF and AMCS, to improve the regulation of water quality impacts from the agricultural and development sector. Stronger regulation will see a huge reduction in the amount of nutrients and sediments entering our Reef from upstream activities.

Background

While some progress has been made through uptake of better management practices, the most recent Report Card on Reef water quality health finds that ‘faster uptake of improved land management practices is required to meet the water quality targets’.  

The need for more urgent action to reduce water quality impacts was echoed by the 2017 Decision of the World Heritage Committee (‘WHC’ Decision: 41 COM 7B.24), whereby the WHC: “4.Strongly encourages the State Party to accelerate efforts to ensure meeting the intermediate and long-term targets of the plan, which are essential to the overall resilience of the property, in particular regarding water quality.”

And further notes: “…despite the positive achievements in the Plan’s inception and the establishment of the Investment Strategy, progress towards achieving water quality targets has been slow, and the most immediate water quality targets set out in the 2050 LTSP are not expected to be achieved within the foreseen timeframe.”

A regulatory impact statement was released by the Government for comment in February 2018. (See the Queensland Government page on this work here for more information).

What’s happening now

Following the GBR Ministerial forum last week, a revised Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan was also released. This Plan provides water quality targets to be achieved by 2025 throughout Reef catchments, intended to be achieved through reductions in sediment and nutrient loads by:   

  • ‘applying minimum practice standards across all industries and land uses
  • supporting industries and communities to build a culture of innovation and stewardship that takes them beyond minimum standards
  • restoring catchments through works to improve or repair streambanks, gullies, riparian vegetation and wetlands.’

Drafting of legislative amendments to introduce the stronger regulations are currently underway and we expect them to be introduced into Parliament late in 2018.

What action is needed

EDO Qld strongly urges the federal and Queensland Government to heed advice by accelerating action to greatly improve water quality as a matter of urgency, given the dire state of our Reef, by:

  • investing in  helping all farmers to quickly and significantly improve their practices to reduce the nutrient and sediment load to our Reef,
  • utilising enforcement action to address irresponsible operators;
  • undertake restoration work of the watercourses in our Reef catchments; work that may be facilitated by smart investment of governments promised Land Restoration Fund.

EDO Qld will continue to advocate for stronger action on climate change and regulation of water quality to give our Reef any chance of being around for future generations, of humans and the species that depend on our Reef.

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.

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