A $261 million Queensland Government water quality program is failing to protect the Great Barrier Reef from fertiliser run-off, with sugar cane farmers still using excessive chemicals on their properties, Right to Information (RTI) documents obtained by the ABC reveal.
Forty-nine per cent of audited sugar cane farming businesses were not complying with the law
No farmer has faced prosecution
Scientists say there is no evidence voluntary measures are improving water quallity
In 2009, the Queensland Government passed a law setting “the optimum amount” of fertiliser farmers are allowed to use.
But the documents show widespread overuse of nitrogen and phosphorous, although there is no evidence any farmer has ever been prosecuted and faced the fines of up to $10,000.
The RTI documents, which deal with the financial year to the end of June, indicate that no farmers have been prosecuted.
When asked about prosecutions by the ABC in March this year, a Department of Environment and Science (DES) spokesperson said that: “To date, no growers have been prosecuted for contraventions of Chapter 4A of the Environmental Protection Act 1994”.
The ABC has since contacted the DES again to inquire whether any growers have been prosecuted since then.
The law applies to three “priority catchments” — Mackay-Whitsundays, Burdekin and Wet Tropics — but the Government has considered broadening the legislation to include Cape York, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary regions.
Government audits of 344 sugar cane farming businesses in 2017-18 in the three “priority” areas showed 49 per cent were not complying with the law. The rest were either compliant, under assessment, had stopped farming or were engaged in other water quality improvement programs.
Even after further inspections, 43 per cent of farm businesses still failed to abide by the law.
The State Government documents show that in 2016-17, only 14 per cent of audited farm businesses were compliant, falling to 7 per cent last financial year.
Almost ready to have a sleep over in.