The southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.
The southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.

Run-off from Mary River hurts reef: Environment council

CONTAMINATED water from the Mary and Burnett river systems is impacting on the Great Barrier Reef.

That is the view of the Wide Bay Burnett Environment Council regional engagement co-ordinator Mike Moller, who said it was evident there was relatively low participation in best management programs.

"Within the Burnett Mary region, only 18 per cent of the Isis sugarcane area, 11 per cent of the Maryborough sugarcane area and none of the Bundaberg sugarcane area has been accredited," he said.

"The latest reef report card shows that only 15 per cent of sugarcane land in the region is being managed using nutrient best management practices and 39 per cent is being managed using soil best management practices.

"Hence there is a need to regulate the Burnett Mary region to ensure minimum standards are met to reduce nutrient and sediment run-off and improve water quality and reef resilience."

Mr Moller said some industry groups claimed the predominant flow of the east Australian current was south, as part of an argument that pollutants flowing from the Burnett Mary did not affect the reef.

"With respect to this, the Department of Environment and Science has advised that the East Australian current is offshore and the inshore flood plumes, which carry the majority of water pollutants, flow to the north through the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area," he said.

WBBEC president Roger Currie said while the Burnett-Mary region was considered a lower priority for water quality improvement, available information from the Queensland Government indicated that this catchment still released nutrient and sediment to waters that drain to the reef.

"This is backed by scientific information to support the case for regulating diffuse pollution from agriculture in the Burnett-Mary region.

"Aside from the water quality science that relates to the Burnett-Mary region, the broader science regarding artificial fertilisers and the impacts of sedimentation are fairly universal.

"Polluted run-off results in poor water quality, and poor water quality impacts the health and resilience of aquatic ecosystems."