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Science is unsettled but growers bear the brunt

The draconian reef regulations that could blow a $1 billion-plus hole in the Queensland economy over the next 10 years will have no real impact on the health Great Barrier Reef (GBR), independent scientist Dr Peter Ridd has said.

Speaking in support of KAP Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto’s Environmental and Other Legislation (Reversal of Great Barrier Reef Protection Measures) Amendment Bill 2021 during the second and final committee hearing, Dr Ridd said the scientific basis for Labor’s reef regulations was flawed.

He said the regulations, which were passed in 2019 for the purpose of meeting Reef water quality targets as defined by the 2017 Scientific Consensus Statement, ignored evidence that challenged the significance of river run-off on the health of the GBR.

Dr Ridd was speaking in response to a question from Mr Dametto about the impact, positive or negative,  of the regulations on the GBR.

The Hinchinbrook MP’s Bill is designed to completely reverse Labor’s reef regulations.

“My question is in regards to the current reef regulation’s from 2019—the regulation and legislation that my bill seeks to repeal. In terms of the implementation of the current 2019 legislation, could you comment on whether that would have a positive or negative effect—or any effect at all—on the turbidity on the Great Barrier Reef and nutrient making it to the Great Barrier Reef?” Mr Dametto asked Dr Ridd.

“The regulations at the moment will have absolutely no effect on anything significant on the Reef because basically the pesticides are not getting out to the Reef,” Dr Ridd told the committee in reply.

“When it comes to fertiliser, work from AIMS (Australian Institute of Marine Science) itself demonstrates that the cycling of nutrients across the seabed is the most important thing.

“Also work on half a dozen papers has demonstrated that the rivers are relatively minor when it comes to water quality of the Reef.

The biggest ‘rivers’ that affect the Great Barrier Reef are the great ocean currents. These are hundreds of thousands of times bigger than the rivers.

“For example, as much water flushes into and out of the Great Barrier Reef lagoon in just eight hours as comes down all the rivers in a whole year.”

Dr Ridd said the science the State Government had based their legislation upon required more quality assurance.

He said he believed the effect of carbon dioxide on the ocean pH as well as warming temperatures were far more pertinent to the health of the GBR than anything associated with agricultural run-off.

The Bundaberg, Kalamia and Pioneer Canegrowers organisations also publicly backed the Bill at the second public hearing, as did members of the Green Shirts Movement and private citizens.

Mr Dametto thanked all witnesses who took part in this final hearing, and said he hoped the committee was giving its decision on the Bill the careful consideration it deserved.

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