The Great Barrier Reef Report Card 2014 released today shows landholders are continuing to help protect the Great Barrier Reef by reducing pollutant loads entering the reef, but accelerated change is needed to achieve the targets.
Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt and Queensland Minister for the Great Barrier Reef Steven Miles released the report card to coincide with the International Riversymposium in Brisbane.
Report Card 2014 assesses the combined results of all Reef Water Quality Protection Plan actions up to June 2014.
“Almost half (47 per cent) the grazing land in Great Barrier Reef catchments is managed using best management practice systems for streambank erosion, 28 per cent for erosion from pastures and nearly a quarter (24 per cent) for gully erosion,” Mr Hunt said.
“This is particularly important because we want to reduce the amount of sediment flowing to the Great Barrier Reef and minimise the risk of seagrass and coral damage.
“Almost three quarters (71 per cent) of horticulture land is managed using best management practice systems for soil and nearly half (45 per cent) for pesticide use.
“The top performing industry was grains which exceeded the pesticide target (91 per cent) in the Burdekin region.”
Dr Miles said the results highlighted the challenge of gaining significant progress in improved land management at a reef-wide scale.
“In this reporting period, the rate of progress towards our water quality improvement targets has slowed dramatically. Continuing to improve reef water quality is one of the key actions under the new Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan and it is critical we build the momentum in reducing runoff from the catchments,” Dr Miles said.
Dr Miles said there was room for improvement from industry, in particular sugarcane.
“Sugarcane is the industry where we have the most work to do, with only 13 per cent of land managed under best management practice systems for nutrients, 23 per cent for soil management and 30 per cent for pesticide use,” Dr Miles said
“Catchment loads modelling, which models the change in key pollutants entering the reef as a result of reported improvements in management practice systems showed continued progress in reducing runoff.
“Since 2009, pollutant loads have reduced for sediment (12 per cent), particulate nitrogen (11.5 per cent), particulate phosphorus (14.5 per cent), dissolved inorganic nitrogen (17 per cent) and pesticides (30.5 per cent).”
Mr Hunt said while there are improvements, further work is required.
“Inshore seagrass has shown signs of recovery in some regions and inshore coral reefs continue to improve,” Mr Hunt said.
“It takes time for improvements in land management to translate into measurable outcomes in marine condition. We know the positive changes we are seeing on land will continue to translate into real, long-term benefits for the reef.”
“Continuing to improve reef water quality is one of the key actions under the new Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan and we will continue to take action to reduce runoff from the catchments,” Mr Hunt said.
Dr Miles said this year’s report card included a number of changes from previous years, to be able to report against new targets and address concerns raised by the Queensland Audit Office.
The Australian and Queensland governments are working hard to implement the Reef 2050 Plan – the most comprehensive plan ever developed to secure the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef for generations to come.
Ongoing successful implementation of the Plan will continue to be supported by the Australian Government’s $140 million Reef Trust and the Queensland Government’s $100 million injection over five years.
Report Card 2014 and more information about Reef Water Quality Protection Plan outcomes in 2013-2014 can be found on the www.reefplan.qld.gov.au website.