Sugar cane farmers have hit back at Prince Charles over comments made during his visit to Australia about the use of banned chemicals impacting the Great Barrier Reef.
Prince Charles attended a round table in Queensland on how to better protect the Great Barrier Reef, involving business leaders, politicians and other community stakeholders.
It’s not clear whether any farm groups attended the meeting.
Prince Charles told The Australian Financial Review the impact from coral-bleaching and climate change meant the world had reached a “crossroads” in its ability to protect the Reef.
But the Prince of Wales and next in line for the British Throne said he’d also been told farmers were using chemicals that had been banned for about 25-years and contaminated run-off was flushed onto the Reef.
However, he stressed it was also happening in the UK.
In his long experience of campaigning for the environment, Prince Charles said pollution was often caused unwittingly by people who “were simply unaware of the impact at the far end”.
But CANEGROWERS replied expressing “surprise and disappointment” at the Prince’s allegation during his Queensland visit that some farmers were using chemicals banned decades ago and were allowing them to run to the Great Barrier Reef.
CANEGROWERS Chair Paul Schembri said he would welcome the opportunity to show Prince Charles around a modern Australian sugarcane farm.
Mr Schembri said the sale and use of herbicides and pesticides on cane farms in the Reef catchment was “highly regulated”.
He said CANEGROWERS had no knowledge of any continuing use of banned chemicals and if allegations have been voiced to a Royal visitor to that effect, they should also be raised with the appropriate authorities.
“The Reef is in our backyard – cane growers work, live and play beside it and in it and have no desire to do it harm,” he said.
“Almost three quarters of the cane farming area of Queensland has been voluntarily enrolled in our industry best management practices program, Smartcane BMP, by growers who are committed to farming for sustainability as well as productivity and profitability.
“Our members are also actively engaged with local Natural Resource Management and other catchment organisations and government-led Reef programs.
“As an industry we are committed to playing our part to secure the future of the Reef.
“This commitment has led us on a decades-long journey of innovation and technological and farming practice change and I would be very happy to show Prince Charles around my farm and explain it to him first hand.”
CANEGROWERS said it also appreciated support from the Prince’s Trust Australia for the ‘Prince of Wales Environmental Leadership – Reef Sustainability Award’ which recognised an individual or group’s exemplary efforts above and beyond the call of duty to raise awareness, foster knowledge-sharing, and engage local communities in sustainable natural resource management to protect and preserve the Reef.
They said the 2017 winner was Innisfail banana growers Frank and Dianne Sciacca with Mackay cane grower Tony Bugeja the runner-up.
On his Lady Elliot Island visit, Prince Charles also met with Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin.
As well as Lendlease and BHP, other organisations at the roundtable included the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International, Greening Australia, Greenfleet Australia, Australia Zoo, Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, The Prior Family Foundation, The Prince’s Accounting for Sustainability Project, the Australian Government and Queensland Government.
Others were, Qantas, Boeing, Australia Post, The Star Entertainment Group, The Walt Disney Company, Affirmative Investment Management, Virgin Australia, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the University of Queensland.