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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability
    The Honourable Kate Jones

    SUPPORT FOR BURDEKIN FARMERS IN RUN UP TO REEF LAWS

    Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability
    The Honourable Kate Jones

    Friday, November 20, 2009

    SUPPORT FOR BURDEKIN FARMERS IN RUN UP TO REEF LAWS

    Farmers in the Burdekin are getting a helping hand to protect the Great Barrier Reef from damaging run-off when new regulations take effect from 1 January.

    Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones said 25 reef protection officers had just finished a four-week training course to educate farmers and help them fulfil their new obligations.

    “In total, 25 reef protection officers will be spread evenly across the Burdekin, Wet Tropics and Mackay-Whitsunday regions to provide on-the-ground support in relation to the new Great Barrier Reef Protection laws,” Ms Jones said.

    “They are all local and some come from cane growing families.

    “Our Burdekin officers will be based in Townsville and they will be out talking to farmers and advising them on how to implement best practice environmental management strategies,” Ms Jones said.

    “The emphasis is on assistance and education rather than legal enforcement, particularly while the community is learning about the regulatory regime,” she said.

    Under the new legislation, farmers must apply no more than the optimum amount of fertiliser to their soil, follow stricter controls on pesticides and control loss of sediment from 1 January, 2010.

    In addition, cane farms growing more than 70 hectares of cane and grazing land of 2,000 hectares or more will be required to have environmental risk management plans in place by 1 October, 2010.

    “Many of the best practice environmental management techniques work in the best interests of the landholder, environmentally and economically,” Ms Jones said.

    “By using the optimum amount of fertiliser, primary producers may save money and produce better crop yields and healthier cattle due to improvements in groundcover.

    “It’s worth noting that a number of landholders are already complying with the new legislation through their existing arrangements.”

    Ms Jones said the reef protection officers had been chosen for their specific knowledge of local agricultural and grazing industries and their capacity to interact with landholders.

    “A four-week course of workshops and training was developed with peak industry and natural resource management groups for the officers,” she said.

    “As part of that training, they’ve been visiting sugarcane and grazing properties which already have best practice environmental management strategies in place.

    “Ultimately, we’ll have 15 officers assigned to help cane farmers and cattle graziers understand and comply with the new regulations, and another 10 with more technical skills associated with things like crop nutrient requirements, managing grass cover and soil erosion and integrated weed management.

    “They’ll be backed up by further support at the on-line website, by email, post and telephone, and they’ll deliver a range of guidance materials and tools, as well as holding public discussions in local districts.

    “Their brief is to get out there and talk to farmers. They’ll be running local workshops on how to conduct and interpret soil test results and how to calculate optimum fertiliser rates.”

    20 November, 2009

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