Unravelling the new Reef regulations
The Queensland Government’s new sugarcane farming regulations took effect on 1 December 2019.
What does that mean for growers?
It depends on the location of the farm and whether it is existing cane land or an area new to cropping.
The Government’s Office of Great Barrier Reef has detailed information on the legal obligations of growers and guidelines about how to meet them available online www.qld.gov.au/ReefRegulations
A snapshot of these legal obligations is provided below but growers should make themselves familiar with the detailed material prepared by the Queensland Government.
Growers in the Central, Burdekin and Northern regions
Growers in the regions from Plane Creek through to Mossman have been regulated for some years. The requirements for record keeping and nutrient management are the same under the new regulations (although nutrient management requirements will change somewhat in December 2021).
The immediate additions to the legal obligations for growers in these areas are:
- No broadcast application of fertiliser (although surface application along the cane row remains legal),
- Taking measures to minimise erosion and sediment run-off, and
- Ensuring fallow blocks have some form of surface cover.
From 1 December 2021, growers in these regions will need a whole-farm N & P budget. In effect, the farm will have a cap for the total amounts of N and P that can be applied (from adding the N and P recommendations from SIX EASY STEPS for all blocks on the farm). The grower needs to stay under this whole farm cap but has the option of varying what is applied to individual blocks where there are sound agronomic reasons.
Growers in the Southern Region
Growers in the Bundaberg Maryborough and Isis districts now have a legal obligation to keep records of their applications of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill by-products. Again, growers should refer to the government material to be clear about their obligations.
From 1 December 2022, southern growers will also be legally obliged to meet minimum practice standards for nutrient management (including the whole-farm N and P budget), nutrient application, minimising erosion and run-off and fallow cover which apply to northern regions.
‘New’ cropping activity
The Queensland Government has defined ‘new’ cropping activity as land that has not been cropped for at least three years out of the past 10 years (with at least one of those years being in the past five years).
In all regions, new cropping activity that commences after 1 June 2020, and is 5 ha or more, will require an environmental authority (permit). There will be farm design standards to adhere to (which are still being drafted) and the new land will need to meet all the legal obligations of existing cane land.
A set of standard requirements will apply to new cropping that extends between 5 and 100 ha. New cropping activities on 100 ha of land or more will require a site-based land suitability assessment and may be subject to unique conditions to manage potential water quality risks.
Please make sure you become familiar with the specifics of your legal obligations under the new reef regulations at www.qld.gov.au/ReefRegulations