FARMERS TURN REEF ACTION INTO INCOME

18 OCT 2021

Five Wet Tropics sugarcane farming businesses have successfully sold 18,000 Reef Credits as a result of changes to land management practices which prevented 18 tonnes of nitrogen from flowing to the Great Barrier Reef.

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 a Reef Credit, which is then sold on to businesses wanting to protect the reef or meet corporate responsibilities.

Second tranche of Reef Credits sold

Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said it was the second ever tranche of Reef Credits to be sold.

“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 COVID-19 pandemic but also after the recent decision by UNESCO to revisit the status of the reef in February next year.

“A credit to farmers, industry and government collaboration”

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

Tully and South Johnstone farmers

Cane farmers who are new to the scheme include Tully and South Johnstone’s Peter Anderson, Wayne Gattera and Adrian Darveniza. There has also been more work by Tully growers Brian and Jamie Dore who were the first farmers to successfully sell Reef Credits in 2020, purchased by global bank HSBC.

This latest round of Reef Credits has been purchased by Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project (MIP) to 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. Its General Manager of Water, Carole Sweatman, said this 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.

Reef Credits idea came from community workshops

Terrain 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 has 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,” Mr Christie said.

Land manager improvements

There are now two different improvements that land managers can make on their properties to generate Reef Credits – managed fertiliser application to reduce nutrient run-off and gully rehabilitation to reduce sediment run-off. GreenCollar is also working with land managers to develop a third methodology, focusing on wetland projects.

Sweet Cane Director Peter Anderson said: “Our neighbours were the first farmers to be issued Reef Credits and they introduced us to how it works as a commercial transaction, with a number of potential buyers from government to corporate”.

“Participating has sharpened our focus on only applying nutrients that are required by the crop – if less fertiliser can be used without impacting productivity, that means lower costs and high profitability.

“In that sense it’s a win-win, as the additional income stream will enable us to continue to invest in industry-leading technology and equipment to drive improved outcomes for our farm and also benefit the Reef.”

Australia’s new environmental market

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.

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