October 16, 2021

Farmers turn reef action into income

A unique collaboration between the Palaszczuk Government, business and landholders is seeing Queensland farmers earn additional income and prevent 18,000kg of nitrogen from reaching the Great Barrier Reef – as well as helping drive Queensland’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan.

Called the Reef Credit Scheme, the market-based collaboration allows farmers and other property owners in reef catchments to undertake projects that improve water quality to generate a tradeable unit of pollutant reduction or Reef Credit, which is then sold onto businesses who want to protect the reef or meet their corporate responsibilities.

Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said five sugarcane farmers have successfully traded 18,000 Reef Credits in the second ever tranche of Reef Credits to be sold, earning money for their business as the sunshine state continues its COVID-19 economic recovery.

“Each Reef Credit represents a kilogram of nitrogen pollution which has been prevented from reaching the reef,” Minister Scanlon said.

“The scheme is a unique way to protect the reef while also supporting business and valuing the work of farmers who take actions on their land to reduce nutrient or sediment run-off.

“This type of action is extremely important as we look for ways to help drive industry through the pandemic but also after the recent decision by UNESCO to revisit the status of the reef in February next year.

“It’s a credit to the farmers, to industry and government collaboration and is a key aspect of our record $1.4 billion investment in this budget for the environment.”

The sugarcane farmers new to the scheme include Peter Anderson, Wayne Gattera and Adrian Darveniza, and includes further work by Brian and Jamie Dore who were the first farmers to successfully sell Reef Credits in 2020, purchased by global bank HSBC.

The scheme was developed by a consortium consisting of GreenCollar, Terrain Natural Resource Management and NQ Dry Tropics supported by Queensland Government investment.

This latest round of Reef Credits has been purchased by Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project (MIP) which will help secure further credits from new projects coming online in the Johnstone and Tully catchments.

GreenCollar worked in partnership with the farmers to generate and sell the Reef Credits.

GreenCollar General Manager of Water, Carole Sweatman said it is another fantastic vote of confidence for expanding the Reef Credits market in the coming months and years, with the latest sale bringing the total number of Reef Credits issued to nearly 25,000.

“Recognising the important role of farmers and graziers is not only key to reaching longer-term water quality targets, but also values their on-farm work without compromising the productivity of their land,” she said.

Terrain Natural Resource Management (NRM) Chief Executive Officer Stewart Christie said the Reef Credits concept came out of a series of local community workshops led by Terrain NRM in Tully and Innisfail four years ago.

“It’s been exciting to work with our partners to develop and test an innovative idea that has the potential to recognise and pay farmers for improving Reef water quality and attract increased investment into the Reef,” he said.

The Reef Credit Scheme is Australia’s innovative, new environmental market, managed by independent, not-for-profit company, Eco-Markets Australia

Eco-Markets Australia Chair Jo Sheppard said as the nation’s first independent administrator of environmental markets, they are proud to be supporting the Reef Credit Scheme.

“Eco-Markets Australia plays an important role in ensuring the integrity of the scheme including verifying projects and providing a secure and transparent registry system. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to enable growth of this innovative scheme,” she said.