26 Oct 2018


These are the dramatic before and after pictures that drive home the sediment and farm chemical problem plaguing the Great Barrier Reef. 

Following the widespread destruction of trees for intensive agriculture, streams that once remained clear following rain now carry sediment and fertiliser pollution out to Reef waters.

A joint investigation by WWF-Australia and the Mackay Conservation Group (MCG) in the Cattle Creek catchment, south of Mackay, has revealed major issues now being investigated by the Queensland Government.

On 5 September 2018, hours after heavy rain, conservationists filmed water flowing off a cane farm into a drain which leads to a tributary of Cattle Creek.

Tests revealed the water coming off the cane farm had almost nine times the recommended levels of nitrogen.

Nitrogen levels in Cattle Creek were three times above environmentally safe levels and the Creek was a muddy mess with sediment levels at least one-and-a-half times water quality thresholds.

Following more rain on 13 October 2018 nearby Clairview Creek was choked with sediment. A photograph from 2008 shows that Clairview Creek used to remain clear after rain.

Sediment and fertiliser runoff from farms is one of the greatest threats to the Great Barrier Reef.

Currently intensive agricultural development does not get assessed to ensure pollution is controlled.

“We need stronger laws. No-one should be allowed to pollute the Reef,” said WWF-Australia spokesperson Sean Hoobin.

“The hundreds of millions invested in Reef water quality is being wasted without effective Reef pollution laws,” he said.

“We were devastated to see clean, healthy streams turned into polluted sewers,” said Mackay Conservation Group coordinator Peter McCallum.

“The Reef deserves better than this,” he said.

Clairview resident Len Mondon is appalled at what is occurring.

“Our local creeks are now full of sediment and inshore fishing has been destroyed," he said.