Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Senator the Hon. Joe Ludwig

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and ForestryThe Hon. Dr Mike Kelly AM MP
Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Gillard Government to help protect the Great Barrier Reef from pollution

Joint media release
23 March 2011

The Gillard Government will undertake research to protect the Great Barrier Reef from harmful pollutants, including runoff from agricultural land during extreme weather events.

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Joe Ludwig, and Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Dr Mike Kelly, today announced funding for 18 new research projects designed to improve water quality and ultimately protect the Reef.

“Significant flood events are a natural phenomenon and can move vast quantities of sediment, nutrients and pesticides from agricultural land into the Reef's lagoon,” Minister Burke said.

“Most of the pollution entering the Reef is stored in the catchments. These pollutants can leave the Reef vulnerable to both short and long term impacts such as coral mortality and increased algal blooms.

“The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s most unique ecosystems and the Government's investment in safeguarding the reef will be of benefit to future generations.”

Minister Ludwig said the timing of this research will enable the Government to monitor and understand the impacts of real flood events on the Reef's lagoon.

“Many farmers are already engaged in activities that aim to protect the Reef,” Minister Ludwig said.

“This important research will lead to a better understanding of land management practices that will help farmers reduce runoff of nutrients, chemicals and sediments across the Reef catchments.”

The funding builds on the Government's commitments through its Reef Guardians initiative and the $200 million Caring for Our Country Reef rescue program which are accelerating the adoption of improved land management practices across Reef catchments and reducing the run-off sediments, nutrients and chemicals.

Dr Kelly said the Government would invest $8.85 million under Caring for our Country for 18 research projects that aim to reduce runoff of dissolved nutrients and chemicals from agricultural lands to the Reef lagoon by 25 percent by 2013.

“The 18 projects are complementary and together will improve understanding of the link between farm practices and the quality of water entering the Reef,” Dr Kelly said.

Issues to be examined include:

  • Pesticide dynamics in the reef and lagoon
  • The pollutant load in reef catchments
  • Land management practices in the sugar cane, grazing, banana and grain crop industries
  • Assessing the cost-effectiveness of improved land management practices
  • Industry-specific research into nutrient losses from sugar cane, ground cover on grazing; land and off-farm runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus from the banana industry.

Further information is available at www.nrm.gov.au.