Positive Environment News

Run-off damages Australia Great Barrier Reef - study

Date: 30-Jan-03
Country: AUSTRALIA

The report, backed by the federal government and state authorities in Queensland, called for an urgent review of legislation to protect the world's largest living organism and one of Australia's top tourist attractions.

"The grim message from the report is that some of our actions on land are gradually poisoning parts of the Great Barrier Reef," Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said in a statement late this week.

"The reef is suffering from the way we clear, drain, settle and farm the land," Beattie said. "It is like a huge drain collecting sediments, nutrients, herbicides and pesticides from farming, grazing and urban settlements."

Beattie pledged state government action to protect the reef from land-based pollution. He did not elaborate.

The report, by a panel of nine experts chaired by Queensland's Chief Scientist in the Department of Primary Industries, Joe Baker, also made no concrete recommendations.

It said there was a need for more information gathering and analysis, and recommended the establishment of a task force to undertake an urgent review of legislation.

"Levels of some chemicals, notably in nutrients containing nitrogen and phosphorous, in some rivers discharging to the Great Barrier Reef are increasing, and have increased over several years," the report, published this week, said.

"There is a serious risk to the long-term future of at least the inshore reef area and...action is necessary to avoid such damage," it said.

GRAZING, SUGAR, CITIES...

The report did not single out a major culprit.

However, cattle grazing accounted for 83 percent of land use in catchment regions draining into or near the Great Barrier Reef area, it said.

Crops - mainly sugarcane - accounted for 1.13 percent of land use, urban areas for 1.6 percent, timber plantations for seven percent, and pristine areas for six percent.

However, cane farming dominated the increase in fertiliser usage in coastal Queensland, it said.

CANEGROWERS, the main body representing Queensland's sugar industry, called for improved consultation and less confrontation between farming and government bodies and environmentalists.

Reuters
© Thomson Reuters 2003 All rights reserved

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