HITTING BACK: Bundaberg Canegrowers manager Dale Holliss.
HITTING BACK: Bundaberg Canegrowers manager Dale Holliss. CONTRIBUTED

WWF attacks canegrowers on reef science

THE WWF has slammed Canegrowers for its attacks on reef science, saying they lobby group is damaging the sector.

"Over the past decade, tens of millions in taxpayers' money have supported many cane farmers to reduce excess fertiliser, pesticides and sediment in run-off, including projects managed by Canegrowers," WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O'Gorman told The Guardian.

"Now Canegrowers seek to denigrate the very science that delivered public financial assistance to increase farm efficiency and productivity."

However, the industry lobby group has hit back.

The clash comes after about 300 people attended a public presentation by controversial scientist Dr Peter Ridd in Bundaberg on Monday.

Dr Ridd is calling for an independent reef science body to test the validity of findings.

He says the Queensland Government needs to delay the introduction of reef regulations amid fears these will drive many growers bankrupt.

A spokesperson for Canegrowers yesterday said its members were more than happy to work co-operatively with programs and organisations that sought to collaborate with growers.

"Canegrowers and its members remain committed to managing the impact of farming on the waterways that feed into the Great Barrier Reef lagoon and the organisation and its members have helped develop and implement many programs aimed at achieving this," she said.

"These programs include Smartcane BMP and Cane Changer, which were initiatives of Canegrowers.

"In some districts, the local Canegrowers office provides services for delivery of Smartcane BMP on a contractual basis to QCGO and all expenditure must be directly related to Smartcane BMP."

Bundaberg Canegrowers manager Dale Holliss said their Best Management Practice facilitator was not funded by the government, but by grower levies.

Mr Holliss encouraged growers to have an open mind about the reef debate and look for the scientific facts.

"We have not paid one cent to Peter Ridd or helped fund any aspect of his tour other than promoting it to our members," Mr Holliss said.

"Farmers up and down the Queensland coast are concerned about the questions around the integrity of some of the scientific work done in relation to the health of the Great Barrier Reef."

Minister for Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Leeanne Enoch, said the government funded Canegrowers to roll out the BMP programs.

"These funds are used amongst other things, to pay for BMP facilitators whose job is to work with farmers to assess their practices and promote management practices which are more efficient and productive, while also reducing harmful run-off to the reef," she said.

For the past decade, the Queensland Government has supported agricultural industries to voluntarily improve their practices, through BMP and work funded through bodies like Canegrowers.

Since 2012, the Queensland Government has provided the agricultural sector around $110 million to support productive and profitable industries and improve water quality. Of this $55 million went to the cane sector. "People may want to play farmers off against industries which rely on a healthy reef, but we are pursuing a solution which will work for both," Ms Enoch said.

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