Ministerial Reef Health Checked & Energy Efficiency Schemes Examined
Three Queensland Government Ministers witnessed first-hand earlier this week the effects of land-based activity on the health of the Great Barrier Reef, while a forum in Cairns in far north Queensland discussed ways of achieving national recognition for the energy efficiency of Queensland architecture. Meanwhile questions are being asked about the efficiency of energy saving programs, with a report saying that tens of millions of dollars funnelled into the State Government’s energy efficiency programs with little or no evidence to prove they are an effective use of taxpayers’ money.
Government release (2 March 2010):
Ministers get the facts on reef health
Three Queensland Government Ministers witnessed first-hand earlier this week the effects of land-based activity on the health of the Great Barrier Reef.
Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones, Primary Industries and Fisheries Minister Tim Mulherin and Tourism Minister Peter Lawlor visited an inshore reef south of Cairns along with Sheriden Morris, Managing Director of the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, and leading marine scientists Dr Katharina Fabricius and Dr Britta Schaeffelke of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
“We wanted to see the current state of the reef, where its condition is healthy and where it has been impacted by land-based activity such as cattle and cane production and urban development,” Ms Jones said.
“We also want see what farmers and graziers are doing to improve their operations so as to reduce their impact on the reef.”
Ms Jones said new legislation which took effect on 1 January 2010 was designed to ensure farmers and graziers reduce their impact on the reef.
“Farmers are required only to take all reasonable and practical steps to minimise their loss of soil, fertiliser and pesticides,” she said.
“Many were already doing this before the legislation took effect at the start of the year, because it is in the farmers’ interests, as well as the interests of the reef.
“We’ll continue to look at the uptake of good practices by farmers and graziers, so we know what is reasonable to expect of them, taking account of the wide variation in circumstances from the dry to wet tropics.
“The area visited today is a part of the reef where the impacts of agriculture are believed to be particularly serious due to the proximity of the reef to farmland, the quantity of runoff pollution and the very high rainfall in the region – up to 12 metres annually.”
Mr Lawlor said the health of the reef was vital to Queensland’s tourism industry and welcomed the response of industry organisations, farmers and graziers who were getting on with the job of implementing the required practices on their properties.
“As a government we are committed to all working together to save this Queensland icon,” he said.
Ms Jones said it was too early to tell if the reef protection legislation has had an effect, but she expected to see an increase in the area of catchment managed under best practice management systems, leading to reduced pesticide coming from properties, followed by reduced fertiliser nutrient runoff and finally reduced sediment over the next four years.
“We’ve funded 25 positions to provide extension and compliance support, and $1.1 million has been provided to industry to ensure farmers and graziers can get help when and where they need it,” she said.
“We are not taking a punitive approach, rather we are saying if you want to do the right thing we’ll do everything we can to help you.”
Mr Mulherin said good water quality was integral to the commercial and recreational fishing industry.
“It’s estimated that the commercial and recreational fishing industry combined are worth close to $1 billion a year for the Queensland economy when flow-on effects are taken into account,” Mr Muherin said.
“Therefore to protect this industry we need improved water quality because of the obvious impacts that has on fish stocks.”
The new legislation, the Great Barrier Reef Protection Amendment Bill 2009, amended the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
Call for energy efficiency code to recognise Qld design
ABC New Report (26 February 2010):
A forum in Cairns in far north Queensland earlier this week discussed ways of achieving national recognition for the energy efficiency of Queensland architecture.
Queensland Planning Minister Stirling Hinchliffe hosted the tropical design conference.
A national energy efficiency code for new homes comes into effect next year.
Mr Hinchliffe says climate-friendly architecture, such as Queenslander homes, should be recognised in the code.
“We can’t let southern-centric building codes drive expensive and incompatible design outcomes that aren’t compatible with the way we live,” he said.
Mr Hinchliffe will formalise a Queensland submission to the national code.
He told State Parliament there is concern some of the energy efficient features of Queenslander homes could be overlooked in the national review.
“The existing national guidelines suggest suspended floors be insulated to achieve six star ratings … anyone lucky enough to live north of the border … knows this is largely unnecessary and expensive,” he said.
Natalie Gregg in the Courier Mail (25 February 2010):
TENS of millions of dollars is being funnelled into the State Government’s energy efficiency programs with little or no evidence to prove they are an effective use of taxpayers’ money.
A report tabled in State Parliament has revealed none of the power-saving schemes were independently evaluated and the outcomes were “difficult to isolate”.
The bipartisan committee’s report also found few of the state’s 1.39 million households or 390,000 businesses were participating in the green initiatives, despite generous rebates.
The poor take-up of power-saving schemes comes as Queensland grapples with its status as the most energy intensive state in the country.
The report highlights the “enormous task ahead” to attract households and businesses to power-saving programs It found one in 780, or a fraction of 1 per cent of businesses, were taking part in the ecoBiz program, which encourages eco-efficient practices in the workplace.
Just one in five households have signed up for the much touted $60 million Climate Smart Home Service scheme.
The program is worth $450 per house, with a $400 government subsidy and includes 15 free energy-saving light bulbs plus water-saving shower heads.
Committee member and Opposition energy spokesman Jeff Seeney said despite costing millions of taxpayer dollars, there was no evidence the Climate Smart Home Service achieved its energy-efficiency goals.
“We have grave reservations about the expenditure of such amounts of public money with no attempt to quantify the outcomes achieved,” Mr Seeney said.
Other key concerns were that green initiatives were duplicated across government levels and that the large number of programs, guides, rebates and incentives was confusing and unnecessarily complex.
There were also questions about a lack of co-ordination across government levels and between agencies.
Energy Minister Stephen Robertson said he would respond to the report’s recommendations “in due time”.