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Joint Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp
&
Queensland Premier and Minister for Trade
The Hon. Peter Beattie MP

22 May 2003

Queensland and Commonwealth Invite Community Comment on Great Barrier Reef Protection Plan


A plan to protect water quality on the Great Barrier Reef, one of Australia's most important icons, was released by the Federal and State governments today for community consultation.

Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, and Premier of Queensland, Mr Peter Beattie, in Brisbane today launched the Draft Great Barrier Reef Water Quality Protection Plan to protect the Reef from land-based pollution.

Dr Kemp and Mr Beattie said their governments agreed on the overwhelming case for halting and reversing the decline in the quality of water flowing into the reef.

"The Great Barrier Reef is facing an increasing threat from a decline in water quality in the catchments flowing into the Reef Lagoon," Dr Kemp said.

"This draft Plan, which is available for public comment until July 14, aims to protect the reef while ensuring the ecological and economic sustainability of the agricultural industries on the land adjacent to the reef."

Mr Beattie said: 'The Great Barrier Reef is nationally and internationally significant and contributes an estimated $1.5 billion to the economy.

"Queenslanders and other Australians regard it as priceless and governments have a duty to show leadership in protecting the Great Barrier Reef," he said.

The Commonwealth and Queensland Governments are working with the community to develop a Reef Water Quality Protection Plan to protect the reef from land-based sources of pollution.

"This draft Plan focuses on diffuse sources of pollution such as sediment and nutrients, because point sources like sewage are already regulated," Mr Beattie said.

"Scientific reports - including a report by a panel of eminent scientists that the State Government released in January (the "Baker Report") - show sediments and nutrients in run-off from the land are damaging the reef.

"The amount of sediment and nutrient washing into the reef has quadrupled in just 15 years.

"The draft plan proposes that landholders and community members work with industry and government to review their practices and adopt innovative approaches that will lead to better water quality in the Reef lagoon.

"The overall aim is to halt and reverse the decline in the quality of water entering the Reef, within ten years.

"We'd prefer to the carrot rather than stick approach by promoting incentives for better land use rather than penalties.

"Innovative suggestions in this draft report include a system for reporting fertiliser sales by catchment, a trade in natural resources such as timber and carbon, and a review of the herbicide Diuron."

Dr Kemp said: "Activities carried out in catchments adjacent to the Reef have been critical in under-pinning economic growth and will continue to be very important into the future. But it is necessary to put them on a more sustainable basis.

"Many of the proposed strategies would be supported through the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality and the Natural Heritage Trust Program.

"Both governments will finalise funding arrangements following finalisation of the plan. The Commonwealth's commitment to the reef over the next four years is $124.8 million."

The draft plan implements the commitment made by the Prime Minister and the Premier in a joint announcement on 13 August 2002 of a Memorandum of Understanding to address the impact of declining water quality entering the reef lagoon. The draft Plan also draws on the Productivity Commission report on Industries, Land Use and Water Quality in the Great Barrier Reef Catchment and the Science Panel report on the Study of Land-Sourced Pollutants and their Impacts on Water Quality in and Adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef (the `Baker Report').

In 2001, the Beattie Government made a pre-election commitment to prepare a reef protection plan.

"I urge everyone with an interest in the Reef and nearby catchments to comment on the draft plan and give their views on how the decline in water quality should be addressed. It is only with community involvement that the best possible plan will be developed," Mr Beattie said.

A copy of the draft Draft Reef Water Quality Protection Plan can be found at www.ea.gov.au/coasts or www.thepremier.qld.gov.au/reefwater, or by phoning 1300 136 382. Submissions will close on 14 July 2003.

Media Contacts:
Catherine Job (Dr Kemp's office) 02 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400
Fiona Kennedy (Premier Beattie's office) (07) 3224 4500 or 0408 744 417

Commonwealth of Australia