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Report Card 2012 and 2013

This report card measures progress from the 2009 baseline towards Reef Water Quality Protection Plan 2009 (PDF, 2.39 MB) (Reef Plan) targets. It assesses the combined results of all Reef Plan actions up to June 2013.

Key findings

  • Results show modelled annual average pollutant loads entering the reef have significantly reduced, indicating the immediate 2013 goal of halting and reversing the decline in the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef has been met.
  • The adoption of improved land management practices and resulting water quality improvements are an encouraging sign of progress towards the long-term goal of ensuring that by 2020 the quality of water entering the reef from adjacent catchments has no detrimental impact on the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Landholders have made major progress in adopting improved land management practices across the Great Barrier Reef catchment. Forty-nine per cent of sugarcane growers, 59 per cent of horticulture producers and 30 per cent of graziers adopted improved management practices by June 2013. The Burdekin and Burnett Mary regions recorded the highest levels of adoption (55 per cent) in the sugarcane industry. Two regions exceeded the grazing target of 50 per cent adoption — Mackay Whitsunday (69 per cent) and Burdekin (54 per cent).
  • Progress towards the sediment target was rated very good, with the estimated annual average sediment load reducing by 11 per cent overall. The greatest reduction was in the Burdekin region (16 per cent).
  • The pesticide load reduced by an estimated 28 per cent overall, with the greatest reduction in the Mackay Whitsunday region (42 per cent).
  • Progress towards the nitrogen target was rated very poor with the estimated annual average total nitrogen load reducing by 10 per cent overall. The greatest reduction was in the Mackay Whitsunday region (17 per cent). Dissolved inorganic nitrogen, which contributes to crown-of-thorns starfish outbreaks, reduced by 16 per cent overall.
  • The overall condition of the inshore marine environment remained poor in 2012–2013 due to extreme weather events in recent years. Inshore seagrass showed some signs of regional recovery and improved from very poor to poor.

Progress towards targets

Reef Plan 2009 set ambitious targets which included halving the nutrient and pesticide loads by 2013 and reducing sediment by 20 per cent by 2020. It also included targets to encourage 80 per cent of the cane and horticulture industries and 50 per cent of the grazing industry to adopt improved practices by 2013.

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Graph data (.csv, 1KB)

Reef Plan achievements and future action

Over the past 10 years, significant efforts have been made by landholders, regional natural resource management organisations, agricultural industry bodies, conservation groups and government agencies to implement improved land management practices throughout the reef catchments. This is a significant achievement following a long history of declining water quality.

Improvements in land management have been driven by a combination of the Australian Government's reef investments from 2009 to 2013, along with Queensland Government and industry-led initiatives.

As a result of the governments' collective investment of $375 million from 2009 to 2013, with support and contributions from industry groups, participating landholders and other organisations:

  • 2,548 of the 8,545 graziers managing 322,891 square kilometres of land adopted improved land management practices
  • 1,857 of the 3,777 sugarcane growers managing 4,032 square kilometres of land adopted improved land management practices
  • 568 of the 970 horticulture producers managing 595 square kilometres of land adopted improved land management practices
  • 154 of the 207 dairy producers adopted improved land management practices
  • 235 of the 600 grain growers managing 9146 square kilometres of land in the Fitzroy region adopted improved land management practices.

While significant progress has been made towards the Reef Plan targets, more needs to be done. Achieving current best management practice alone may not be enough to achieve the nitrogen target and innovative approaches and broadscale commitment to improved nutrient management will be necessary.

The updated Reef Plan, released in 2013, continues to build on the efforts of the past five years to ensure that by 2020 the quality of water entering the reef from broadscale land use has no detrimental effect on the reef's health and resilience.

The Australian and Queensland Governments are committed to delivering Reef Plan and recognise improving the quality of water entering the reef will take considerable time and effort.

To enhance protection of the reef for future generations the Australian and Queensland Governments have also committed to:

  • completing the comprehensive strategic assessment of environmental management arrangements to inform the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan which will provide an over-arching framework to guide protection and management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
  • establishing a Reef Trust that will deliver additional improvements in reef water quality and coastal habitat condition, and enhance species protection.



Last updated:
31 March, 2015

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