REEF REPORT: Australian Marine Conservation Society say
REEF REPORT: Australian Marine Conservation Society say "very little progress” has been made in improving water quality in the Whitsundays. Nine Network Australia

Report card shows Reef pollution has decreased

POLLUTION entering the Great Barrier Reef has decreased, but conservationists say little progress has been made to improve water quality.

The Queensland Government released the annual Great Barrier Reef report card last week, which environment minister Steven Miles said showed improvement in reducing nitrogen run off.

"Thanks to lots of hard work on the ground, we've finally got pollution falling,” Mr Miles said.

Though pollution may be falling in the Burdekin region, in the Mackay/Whitsunday catchment the Whitsundays scored a "C” for water quality, a "D” for seagrass and a "B” for coral.

This is a similar result to the previous report card, though in 2015 the Whitsundays scored a "C” for coral.

As the data is a year old, the devastating effects of Cyclone Debbie on island fringing reef and the outer reef was not included in the 2016 reef report.

Australian Marine Conservation Society spokeswoman Sandra Williams, said despite Mr Miles' claim that pollution was falling, she believed "very limited progress” had been made in the last 12 months.

"The fact that the progress has been so minuscule in that time and the water quality (in the Whitsunday/Mackay region) at a limited progress and it has been very slow an its not enough,” she said.

"I think it pretty obvious that the 2018 targets set in the plan are not going to be met. It just goes to show how much more needs to be done.”

Earlier this year UNESCO expressed "serious concern” that Australia would not meet its 2050 Reef Plan.

Ms Williams said UNESCO encouraged Australia to accelerate water quality targets in order to meet targets set by the 2050 Reef Plan.

Though improvements in water quality was an important factor in coral growth, Ms Williams said the under pinning factor responsible for two significant coral bleaching events in the past year was rising water temperatures.

"Unless we address the overarching problem of global warming and super heated water all efforts that we make cant save the reef,” she said.

Mr Miles said in the wake of coral bleaching "it is crucial we do all we can to improve water quality and the health and resilience of the reef”.

New technology, including trials of gully remediation techniques, bioreactors which remove dissolved inorganic nitrogen from water were all being used to improve water quality, Mr Miles said.

"We've been working with cane growers so that they are part of the solution for water quality while also getting great results for their farms,” he said.

Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan said growers of the dry tropics could "hold your heads high” after the Burdekin region returned water quality improvements in the last year.

"High levels of engagement in government reef programs and the involvement of 70% of the cane farming area of Queensland in the industry best practice program Smartcane BMP show growers are working to care for the environment while improving productivity and profitability,' Mr Galligan said.