Julia Anderson. On Thursday April 11, the Innovation, Tourism Development and Environment Committee met with residents to discuss potential impacts of the proposed Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures.
Julia Anderson. On Thursday April 11, the Innovation, Tourism Development and Environment Committee met with residents to discuss potential impacts of the proposed Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures. Emma Murray

Graziers fear fines if reef bill passes

PETER and Julia Anderson fear a troublesome creek on their farm could threaten their financial livelihood, cattle and dry land holdings if proposed water management regulations pass.

Mr Anderson, who runs a property north of Clermont, yesterday told a panel of state politicians his 7500ha property could face massive penalties because of the creek if the Great Barrier Reef Protection Measure Bill becomes legislation.

At a public hearing in Mackay yesterday, the Andersons joined almost 100 people at Souths League Club as the proposed legislation came under scrutiny.

 

The Bill proposes the imposition of minimum regulated standards on farms to limit nutrient and sediment run-off into the reef ecosystem.

But many farmers feel they are being made a "scapegoat" for the reef. Mr Anderson said they believed the government monitoring and proposed harsh penalties were unfair on the industry, which had been reforming towards greener practices.

In a submission to the hearing, Mr Anderson said conflicting land management regulations meant he and his family were "we are dammed if we do and dammed if we don't".

He said there were a number of vegetation management and weed management regulations dictating how he could manage the creek.

The laws meant he could not actively control the soil erosion on his own property in the Burdekin catchment.

After 38 years on his property, Mr Anderson said he had seen the industry change land and water quality management. Green farming was becoming more prolific, he said, and the driving force behind green farming innovations had come from the farm, not Brisbane.

His property had often been the "guinea pig" for new green farming ideas, he said.

In 2003, he was one of the first farmers to implement grazing land management changes. In 2008, he was an advocate for voluntary best management practice programs.

While he admitted the voluntary framework did not differ vastly from the proposed regulations, he opposed the government imposition of the mandatory minimums.

Mr Anderson implored the committee to "put the regulatory stick back in the cupboard".

"If you are trying to train a dog, you work with it and incentivise it.

"You don't bash the dog, because that just causes fear and it won't work."

Mr Anderson and other farmers argued that the State Government had ignored the efforts of private industry to reform land and water management.

While green practices are being adopted, Mr Anderson admitted the industry still had a way to go to minimise it's effect on the reef.

Fellow Burdekin region grazier Elcia received a round of applause asked the committee "how are we going to catch every leaf that falls into our rivers?".