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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage

10 September 2001

Water Quality Targets for Great Barrier Reef

Federal Environment Minister, Robert Hill, today released a ground-breaking scientific report addressing the effect of land use activities on water quality in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Senator Hill said the report is an historic initiative because it recommends specific end-of-river pollution targets for all 26 river catchments adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.

The report finds that, over the last 150 years, there has been a significant increase in pollution discharged to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

The report confirms that these pollutants are having an adverse effect on inshore ecosystems such as corals and seagrass.

Senator Hill said that the report highlighted the need for the Beattie government to belatedly accept its responsibility to ensure sustainable management of activities in the river catchments adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.

"If not addressed, the decline in water quality could threaten not only the environment of the Great Barrier Reef but also the tourism and fishing industries that rely upon a healthy Reef. These industries inject more than a billion dollars a year into regional economies in Queensland," Senator Hill said.

The report recommends individual river catchment targets for 2011. Catchments are identified as high risk (such as Johnstone, Herbert and Proserpine) through to lower risk (such as Bloomfield and Shoalwater catchments).

If the recommended targets are met, pollution loads entering the Great Barrier Reef will be reduced as follows:

"End-of-river catchment targets for the next ten years have been set at realistic levels, recognising this is a first step designed to halt the decline in water quality. More ambitious targets will be required in the longer term if we are to reverse the overall decline in water quality over the last 150 years."

"The report highlights the need for Premier Beattie to take action to ensure the targets are met. It is the Queensland government that has primary responsibility for the management of land use activities in the river catchments adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef."

"Unfortunately, Premier Beattie's record on natural resource management is poor. His government needs to improve its performance in managing land clearing, protecting riparian vegetation, ensuring the sustainable use of water resources and placing appropriate limits on the use of pesticides, fertilisers and other chemicals."

The Commonwealth Government has, through the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality and the Natural Heritage Trust, put in place mechanisms to support State governments in delivering sustainable natural resource management.

Copies of the Report can be downloaded at:

10 September 2001

Belinda Huppatz (Senator Hill's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 258 364

The Water Quality Report was prepared by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority at the request of the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council, which is Chaired by Senator Hill and includes the Queensland Minister for the Environment and Commonwealth and Queensland Ministers for Tourism. The Water Quality report was prepared with input from a working group of Australia's leading scientists in this area. The group took into account monitoring data from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the CRC for the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority as well as the results of catchment discharge modelling from the National Land and Water Resources Audit.

Commonwealth of Australia