$10m Great Barrier Reef protection rebate scheme to be dropped after farmers access less than 0.1 per cent
A $10m scheme designed to help protect the Great Barrier Reef has been branded as a “flop” after less than 0.1 per cent of the available funds were accessed.
The Farming in Reef Catchment Rebate Scheme was created in 2019 to help reduce destructive run-off to the iconic tourist region by providing funds to seek professional advice for nutrient and sediment management.
It was aimed at limiting the devastation to the vulnerable reef caused by nearby graziers, sugarcane producers and banana growers, through an offer of up to $1000 each.
But in the three financial years it has been available, only $3,849.50 has been accessed, forcing Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon to review the scheme.
Opposition environment spokesperson Sam O’Connor blasted the ineffectiveness of the rebate, saying it was another example of the Palaszczuk government failing to deliver on promises to protect the environment.
“On top of Queensland’s carbon emissions increasing since 2015 and having the smallest amount of protected area of any state, this is another example of Labor being all talk when it comes to the environment,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said the poor uptake of the rebate showed the government was “not serious about either protecting the reef or helping farmers improve their practices”.
The frustration was shared by state Greens MP Michael Berkman, who said “once again it seems Labor can talk the talk but not walk the walk when it comes to protecting the reef”.
“Alongside climate change — made worse by Labor and the Liberals approving new coal and gas projects — the Queensland government’s insufficient progress on water quality and land management were key reasons UNESCO recommended the reef be listed as ‘in danger’ this year,” he said.
The member for Maiwar applauded regulatory changes introduced by the Palaszczuk government in 2019 to improve farming standards and to protect the reef.
But he said since then “very little has actually changed so I’m not surprised this scheme’s a flop”.
“Media releases and rebates are nice, but they won’t save the reef — that requires real, urgent government action to reduce emissions and enforce water quality regulations,” Mr Berkman said.
Ms Scanlon said the Palaszczuk government was committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef, which supports 60,000 jobs and pumps $6bn into the economy.
“That’s why we’re working with the industry to reduce pollution on the reef but also to help producers make their farms more sustainable and profitable,” she said.
“Funding from the Farming in Reef Catchments Rebate Scheme remains available for producers, and I encourage them to sign up for up to $1000 to help them manage nutrients and sediment while we also review the scheme.
“We’ve also introduced a number of initiatives, including grants to help farmers adopt new technologies and approaches that are not only more environmentally friendly but will make their operations more profitable.”
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