New reef regulations explained

Reef regulations will affect Burnett farmers. Picture: FILE.229314_01

New legislation will affect Burnett farmers in line with the Queensland Government’s reef water quality program.

It will impact Queensland farmers in the Great Barrier Reef catchment from Cape York to the Burnett-Mary region, which includes both the North and South Burnett Regional Council areas.

The purpose of the new laws is to improve water quality by implementing minimum practice standards and permits for farmers. The draft legislation states that from 1 June 2021, a permit will be required for new or expanded commercial cropping and horticulture activities that are regulated under the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

A permit is required if cropping or horticulture is a commercial activity (for fee or reward).

Before the activity is due to commence:

– The land must be cropped within less than three years of the last ten years and not within the last five years.

-The land was not cropped at least once during 1 June 2018 to May 2021

-The cropping or horticulture activity will be on at least five hectares within the same river basin within the Great Barrier Reef catchment.

-If an exclusion does not apply

Applying for a permit comes under a few different application types including standard, variation or site-specific applications. The fee for a standard application is $670 and $870 for a variation or onsite application.

The new laws aim to uphold environmental values. Applications must describe the environmental values that may be impacted by fine sediment and dissolved inorganic nitrogen entering catchment waters of the Great Barrier Reef as a result of your activity.

The standard conditions required for compliance, outline procedure around cropping near a defining bank or natural waterway and the implementation of waterway buffers to prevent sediment runoff by slowing down run-off velocity to allow deposition of sediment.

Complying with the permit involves working in line with the standard conditions and failure to do so may result in penalties.

The Burnett Inland and Economic Development Organisation have advised farmers to review the draft legislation and flag any issues they may have before 17 February 2021.

– Neesha Sinnya