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Reef in moderate condition, but greatest danger yet to come

Media Release
Larissa Waters 13 Aug 2011

A government report into the water quality of the Great Barrier Reef released last night contains some encouraging news, but the unique reef ecosystem is about to come under further pressure from coal and coal seam gas industries, Greens Senator Larissa Waters said.

“The results show some improvement since 2003, but we can do better than “moderate” condition for this internationally significant biodiversity icon,” Senator Waters said.

Senator Waters said while many farmers had taken steps to limit chemical run-off, there was still a vast amount of nutrients, 28,000 kilograms annually of pesticides and 14 million tonnes of sediment reaching the delicate reefs.

“If we are to reach the Plan’s target of 50% reduction in pesticides by 2013 we need a ban on the most toxic chemicals - Diuron, Atrazine and Ametryn - which are endangering the seagrasses and coral that are the lynchpin of the Reef."

“The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority must not delay the suspension of Diuron use any longer. The cane industry must continue to receive financial and management support to achieve an urgent transition to more sustainable alternatives and farming methods, building on the improvements the industry has already made."

Senator Waters said the Reef provided jobs for 67,000 workers in a tourist industry worth over $6 billion and those jobs depend upon a healthy reef.

“The report only considers water quality and not the other two great dangers to the reef - climate change and the fact it’s being turned into a coal and gas highway.”

“We have taken the first steps towards addressing climate change with the carbon price package, but the doubling of Queensland’s coal exports by 2030 and the current stampede of coal seam gas exports pose enormous threats to the Reef from temperature increases, ocean acidification, millions of cubic metres of dredging for new ports and thousands of ships transiting the Reef."

“The Reef is about to become a coal and gas highway. We welcome the recent extension of satellite tracking rules into the southern Great Barrier Reef, following the Shen Neng 1 disaster on Douglas Shoal in April 2010, but the Greens believe we still need mandatory marine pilots, experienced local navigators, guiding vessels through the length and breadth of the Reef."

“We also need a moratorium on coal seam gas until its long term impacts on the Reef, our food producing land, our groundwater resources, threatened species and the climate are fully understood. And rather than new coal mines, let’s use the $1 billion funding for renewable energy projects the Greens secured in the carbon price package to drive a clean energy jobs boom for Queensland."

Senator Waters said the report card did not take into account last summer’s massive floods and Cyclone Yasi, both of which washed vast quantities of run-off into the reef lagoon.

“There are very serious concerns over the widespread deaths of marine animals since then and since the start of massive dredging in Gladstone Harbour and associated boat traffic for LNG export facilities. The state government needs to expedite its investigation and reveal what it’s found to date,” Senator Waters said.

Media contact - Steve Gray 0419 626 725

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