Government-backed farming reforms are helping the Great Barrier Reef


Government funding for improved farming practices has improved Great Barrier Reef water quality by significantly reducing nutrient run-off flowing from farms.

Nutrient nitrogen run-off from farms into Great Barrier Reef catchments have cumulatively reduced by 25.5% since 2013, the Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019 released today suggests.

Prepared by the Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan ley and Queensland Minister for the Environment and the Greet Barrier Reef Meghan Scanion, the report backs the notion that Australian and Queensland Government funding is helping improve the water quality of the Reef.

In total, the Australian and Qld governments have invested $667 million to support good farming practices that should reduce pollution leaving Great Barrier Reef catchments.

“The report shows that where strong programs are in place, that we can and are making a difference,” Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said.

“We have invested in further programs since the period covered in the report and are committed to further reef water quality improvements.

“The fact that the overall marine condition remains poor underlines the importance of those investments.”

According to Minister Scanlon, the report card demonstrated a continued drop in levels of dissolved inorganic levels, with rates in positive territory since 2013.

“The overall reduction in dissolved inorganic nitrogen, the Reef’s highest risk marine pollutant, was 4.3% in the 2018-2019 year alone.”

Sugarcane and banana growers in the Wet Tropics and Burdekin region were the main contributors to 2018-2019 water quality improvements.

“Yet we must continue this trajectory. It has been pleasing to hear of increased compliance with 2019 reef protection laws which introduced chemical, erosion and other practice standards.”

Report card 2019 highlights include:

  • A 4.3% modelled reduction in dissolved inorganic nitrogen loads across the Great Barrier Reef catchments. The greatest reductions were in the Wet Tropics (7.4%) and Burdekin (4.5%) regions.
  • A 1.3% modelled reduction in fine sediment loads in the Mary catchment (Burnett Mary region).
  • The Burdekin and Wet Tropics regions recorded the largest increase in best practice nutrient management for sugarcane, up 6.3% and 6.1% respectively.
  • The Kolan catchment (Burnett Mary region) met the pesticide target to protect at least 99% of aquatic species.
  • The Pioneer catchment (Mackay Whitsunday region) recorded the greatest improvement in pesticides (up 4.5%) with 80.5% of aquatic species protected from their harmful effects.

Ministers Ley and Scanlon also unveiled the five-yearly review of the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan will start with an independent review of the land management practice targets.

The interactive Reef Water Quality Report Card 2019 is available here: