Friday, 28 January 2022

North Queensland-based Senator and Special Envoy for Northern Australia, Susan McDonald has hailed as a big win for farmers news that $1 billion in federal funding for the Great Barrier Reef would include examining urban water runoff.

Senator McDonald, who initiated a 2020 Senate inquiry into Reef science, said that for years farmers’ use of fertilisers had been solely blamed for nitrogen runoff into the GBR lagoon.

“I congratulate and thank Minister Sussan Ley and the Morrison Coalition Government for providing this additional money for practical environmental management and outcomes. For a long time farmers have been asking why urban stormwater and wastewater runoff didn’t seem to take its share of the blame for Reef nitrogen levels, but this will now be assessed,” she said.

“This is really good news because farmers have slashed their fertiliser use in recent years but nitrogen levels in Reef waters have remained stubbornly above targets.

“Urban runoff has long been suspected of offsetting farmers’ efforts but now we’re looking at examining its impact and finding practical ways to handle it.

“There are some treatment methods being trialled right now which will completely change the way we approach urban runoff and I expect these will be inspected closely by the Morrison Government as we continue our practical approach to water quality improvements.

“It is sensible and reasonable that we apply the same rigour to all water entering the Reef lagoon, not just what comes off farms.”

Senator McDonald said farmers in the Reef catchment could look forward to being recognised for the work many have already done to improve water quality.

“The Senate inquiry heard numerous times how the Labor State Government had taken a ‘big stick’ approach to farmers and their land management, failing to recognise industry programs initiated by Canegrowers and AgForce and threatening them with harsh penalties for missing unrealistically high targets, but the Coalition’s announcement today allows for collaboration with farmers to build on the good work already being done.

“A federally funded trial in the Burdekin recently achieved a 700-tonne reduction in fertiliser use with no loss of productivity – this is the sort of practical, on-farm cooperation we will adopt.”


Contact: Julian Tomlinson, 0421 059 187



This brand new investment reaffirms our deep, long-term commitment to protecting the Great Barrier Reef and builds on an already unprecedented $2 billion federal government investment under the recently updated Reef 2050 Plan.

It will continue and enhance Australia’s world leading management of the reef by accelerating reef management and conservation, improving water quality, and improving research and technology.

This record investment will be driven by the best science, genuine engagement with local communities and industries, and respect for the rights and knowledge of Traditional Owners.

A healthy reef underpinned by strong management supports around $6.4b in economic activity, 64,000 jobs and local tourism. By protecting the reef, the Morrison Government is also protecting local jobs and the local economy.

Funding on-ground community and Traditional Owner-led projects

Reef communities, farmers and Traditional Owners are at the centre of our reef protection efforts.

We are delivering $77.4m in new grants for community and Traditional Owner-led partnership projects to drive on-ground activities for:

  • Weed and pest control;
  • Habitat restoration;
  • Species protection;
  • Citizen science programs; and
  • Local marine debris clean-ups.


Accelerating progress toward water quality targets

We are extending efforts to improve reef water quality and meet our agreed targets under the Reef 2050 Plan. $579.9m in new funding will accelerate our work to:

  • Address eroding gullies as well as other sources of water pollution;
  • Support farmers and land managers to voluntarily reduce land-based runoff into the reef;

We are also funding projects that address pollution from urban areas, including outflows of untreated or inadequately treated sewage into the Reef.

Supporting climate adaptation science, research and development

$92.7m will accelerate research to help the reef adapt to climate change and support the next phase of our Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program. This will see the early deployment of interventions like reef seeding, cloud brightening, coral fogging and rubble stabilisation to boost coral resilience to a changing climate.

Continuing our world-leading reef management, conservation and partnerships

$252.9m will be provided to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to continue its world-leading management of the Great Barrier Reef, securing the future of the highly successful Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) Control Program and supporting reef compliance and protection.

This new package builds on our strong record on the Great Barrier Reef, including:

  • Declaring the first stage of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park;
  • World heritage status for the Reef;
  • Banned oil and gas operations on the Reef; and
  • Creating one of the world’s largest marine park networks.