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    Premier
    The Honourable Anna Bligh

    PREMIER WARNS OF CHEMICAL DANGER TO THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

    Premier
    The Honourable Anna Bligh

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008

    PREMIER WARNS OF CHEMICAL DANGER TO THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

    CAIRNS: Premier Anna Bligh today warned of the danger chemicals posed to the Great Barrier Reef and outlined new legislation to tackle the problem.

    Speaking on the first day of the Cairns Regional Parliament, Ms Bligh said all the evidence pointed to the fact that the Reef was dying.

    “The presence of pesticide residues, especially herbicides, is widespread in water bodies of the Reef, including streams, wetlands, estuaries, coastal and reef waters,” Ms Bligh said

    “These herbicides inhibit photosynthesis in coral resulting in coral death as well as seagrasses – an important habitat within the Reef lagoon and a food source for dugong and turtles.

    “Atrazine and Diuron, two of the most commonly found herbicides in surface waters of the Reef, derive largely from areas of sugar cane cultivation and cropping.

    “Chemical residues at biologically harmful concentrations have been found in the marine waters of the Reef up to 60 kilometres offshore.”

    Ms Bligh said under the 2003 Reef Plan the State Government had been working with farmers and industry to voluntarily address water quality and the use of pesticides through better management practices.

    However evidence from recently released documents such as the 2007 Reef Water Quality report and a independent Scientific Consensus Statement showed more needs to be done.

    “I announced on the weekend, following the Reef Summit, $50 million over five years to support regulation to prevent agricultural water pollution in Great Barrier Reef catchments,” Ms Bligh said.

    “On top of existing commitments this means we have now committed $175 million over five years to tackle this problem.

    “The regulatory model is at an early stage of development, but today I can announce that we will aim to put into law:

    • The types, application rates and application for herbicides and pesticides. For example the use of hooded spray equipment that increases the accuracy of pesticide application;
    • Pasture, soil and tillage management techniques to minimize loss of pollutants through run off or drainage into the groundwater systems;
    • Protection and rehabilitation of wetlands and riverside vegetation including limiting activities within and around those areas known to have an impact on their values;
    • Grazing intensity and fire management on pastoral lands draining to the Reef; and
    • Establishment of a monitoring and reporting system to track uptake of best management practices and determine areas requiring further attention.”

    Ms Bligh said the State Government would establish a stakeholders group to work with farmers and other representatives in developing the legislation.

    “The Great Barrier Reef is recognized around the world,” Ms Bligh said.

    “Its value to our environment and economy is priceless.

    “I know the decision to regulate will not be popular with all sectors of our community especially the farming industry.

    “Nevertheless it is essential if we are to protect this national treasure for future generations.”

    October 28, 2008

    Media Contact: Premier’s Office – 3224 4500