Reef reports show why action is needed now to improve water quality

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Two reports released today that provide an update on the health of the Great Barrier Reef show why urgent action is needed to protect the Reef and the thousands of jobs that rely on it.

The Outlook Report and latest Reef Water Quality Report Card, both released today, show water quality is still threatening the Reef and many marine species.

Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef Leeanne Enoch said the 2017-2018 Reef Water Quality Report Card, a joint report between the Federal and Queensland Governments, shows the quality of water flowing into the Reef was not improving fast enough.

“This scientific evidence further highlights why our proposed Reef Regulations are vital to protecting the Great Barrier Reef and the 60,000 jobs that rely on its health.

“The Report, which outlines the progress towards the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan targets, shows land-based run-off still remains a problem and that urgent changes are needed if we are going to meet our targets,” she said.

“The Report also shows that many farmers have been doing good work to help improve the quality of run-off, but unfortunately the science is showing that uptake has not been fast enough.

“For example, we want 90% of sugarcane land across the Reef catchments managed using best management practice systems by 2025. But, the results show this was happening on only 9.8% of land so far.

“There are some positives in the report, such as sediment and nutrient targets being met in Cape York, which is a good result for the region. However, overall water quality modelling showed only a 0.3% reduction in dissolved inorganic nitrogen and a 0.5% reduction in sediment in 2017-2018 across all regions.

“This simply isn’t enough.

“There are also a lot of scores that are poor, or very poor.

“All of these results show why the Palaszczuk Government’s proposed reef regulations are needed.”

The 2019 Outlook Report, released today by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, also shows the overall outlook for the Reef is very poor.

“This report, which is prepared every five years, shows most of the “high risk” threats to the Reef relate to climate change or land-based run off (water quality),” Ms Enoch said.

“The report also says that the science is clear: initiatives that will halt and reverse the effects of climate change at a global level and effectively improve water quality at a regional scale are the most urgent to improve the Region’s long-term outlook.

“This is why our Government’s actions – including the proposed reef regulations and our action to reduce emissions and address climate change – are so important.”

Internationally renowned reef scientist Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said the outlook for the Great Barrier Reef hinged on effectively dealing with climate change and on reducing the impact of land-based run-off on water quality.

“These are two critical issues that must be addressed if we are to enjoy the $5-6 billion flowing into our economy, as well as the 60,000 jobs, from having a Great Barrier Reef,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

“The Queensland Government’s transition to a low-carbon economy is critical, but so too is improving water quality.

“The Queensland Government’s proposed Reef regulations are absolutely necessary if we are to take some of the stress off the Reef. Working together as one community is essential. This legislation does just that.”

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg also said while the Report Card offered some good news for parts of the Great Barrier Reef, a lot more needed to be done.

“We’re still a long way off what’s needed to protect the Reef. Unfortunately, the conclusions of the scientific consensus statement on Great Barrier Reef water quality have not changed substantively since 2017,” Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said.

"We also have to remember that it is a huge problem to solve. If you think about it, the problem took 150 years to create, and it isn't going to go away overnight. We must be patient – we are in an early stage of the solutions.”

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg is Director of the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies.

Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts
The Honourable Leeanne Enoch

What the Government is doing to protect the Reef:

  • Investing in record funding of $330 million over five years to protect the Reef.
  • Providing $261 million for Reef water quality programs. The majority of funding goes towards on-ground projects that reduce pollution run-off.
  • We also provide $69 million for the joint Field Management Program which involves surveillance, maintenance and compliance.
  • Investing $500 million in a Land Restoration Fund to facilitate land sector carbon offset projects. This supports our work to reduce Queensland’s carbon emissions.
  • Introduced legislation in Parliament to help reduce run-off into the Great Barrier Reef
  • The new laws focus on reducing run-off from agriculture and direct sources of pollution from intensive land uses, such as sewage treatment plants, aquaculture and mining.
  • Targets of zero net emissions by 2050 and 50% renewable energy by 2030 to tackle climate change.
     

Key findings from the Reef Water Quality Report Card 2017-2018:

Report can be found here: www.reefplan.qld.gov.au/ReportCard2017-2018

The Reef Water Quality Report Card 2017 and 2018 assesses the results of Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan actions reported up to June 2018.

  • Overall marine condition was poor in 2017-2018.
  • Overall progress towards the sugarcane target of 90% of land managed using best management practice systems was only 9.8% to June 2018.
  • Water quality modelling showed only a 0.3% reduction in dissolved inorganic nitrogen and a 0.5% reduction in sediment in 2017-2018 across all regions.
  • Shows many landholders have invested time and resources to reduce pollution flowing to the Reef but the results reflect the scale of change still needed to meet the targets.
  • There were some positive results with the Cape York sediment and particulate nutrient targets being met. This is partly due to our work to improve pasture management by destocking cattle and controlling feral animals on Springvale Station.
     

Key findings from the Outlook Report:

Report can be found here: http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/our-work/outlook-report-2019

Prepared every 5 years by Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Previous reports released in 2009 and 2014.

  • The scientific evidence is clear: initiatives that will halt and reverse the effects of climate change at a global level and effectively improve water quality at a regional scale are the most urgent to improve the Region’s long-term outlook.
  • Without additional local, national and global action on the greatest threats, the overall outlook for the Great Barrier Reef’s ecosystem will remain very poor.
  • Strong and effective management actions are urgent at global, regional and local scales.
  • The 10 threats identified in 2014 as presenting a very high risk to the Region’s ecosystem and heritage values are again the highest ranked in 2019.
  • Of the very high risk threats, most relate to climate change or land-based run-off (water quality) affecting values on a Region-wide scale. Given the current state of the Region’s values, actions to reduce the highest risks have never been more time-critical.
  • The rate of reduction of pollutant loads has been slow, reflecting modest improvements in agricultural land management practices.
  • Future initiatives need to deliver timely, best practice agricultural land management over a wider area to improve water quality.
  • Overall, habitats are assessed as being in poor condition.
  • Habitat loss, degradation and alteration have occurred in a number of areas, substantially affecting populations of some dependent species.
  • But not all habitats have been equally affected and their condition varies across the Region.
  • For instance, coral reefs that have escaped impacts of bleaching, cyclones and crown-of-thorns outbreaks remain in good condition.
 
Climate Change Energy & Water Environment Political Queensland Government
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Leeanne Enoch MP : Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts :
Brisbane
07 3719 7270
Leeanne Enoch MP : Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Minister for Science and Minister for the Arts
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