Healthy rivers and Reef contributing to a prosperous region where people live, work and play.
The Mackay-Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership is a collaboration between community, Traditional Owners, farmers and fishers, industry, science, tourism and government.
The Partnership is set to release the Mackay Whitsunday region’s first full report waterway health report card in October 2016.
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Meet our partners. This month’s spotlight is on…   

State Chairman of CANEGROWERS, Paul Schembri

State Chairman of CANEGROWERS, Paul Schembri


What: Smartcane BMP (Best Management Practice) Program

Area: Movement of regional cane growing businesses to achieve recognition and certification of Best Management Practices (BMP). The Smartcane BMP program is in varying degrees of progress on cane farms across the width and breadth of the Mackay and Plane Creek cane supply areas. The Australian sugar industry’s Smartcane BMP program is industry-developed, owned, and managed.

Logo for Smartcane BMP

The Smartcane BMP logo

Aiming high: Through Smartcane BMP, CANEGROWERS Mackay works in partnership with other industry stakeholders – governments, communities, productivity and research bodies – to achieve the maximisation of efficiencies in fertilising, chemical applications, irrigation and general farm operations to further enhance the protection of our regional waterways and the iconic Great Barrier Reef.
The two-fold and significant benefits of this program and these partnerships is the environmental sustainability of our family-owned cane farming businesses, a multi-billion dollar Australian rural industry, and no less significantly the efficiencies and improvements that reduce input costs, maximise the uptake of fertilisers, irrigation and chemicals (minimising run-off and waste) to achieve increased productivity and profitability on our farms.

Bird life attracted to a dam on a cane farm in the Mackay-Whitsunday region

: The healthy state of the water in a district cane farmer’s dam attracts abundant birdlife.

In action: Environmental awareness and sustainable farming through best management practice is not new to the Australian sugarcane industry. Our cane farming businesses have consistently evolved to embrace sustainable practices since the industry first began, in fact the practice of green trash blanketing was perhaps the single most significant change to be adopted across the board in recent times – reducing weed growth (fewer chemicals), moisture retention (less irrigation), and reduced soil erosion (less run-off and loss of chemicals/fertilisers). Assisting cane growers to continue to evolve through the certification process of Smartcane BMP is a team of facilitators (we have two for our region). Our facilitators assist business owners to meet the requirements and standards of the benchmarks outlined in our world-class Best Management Practice program. With the majority of cane farming businesses operating along the eastern coast of Australia, and therefore alongside significant waterways and the Great Barrier Reef, our growers have always had to take their land stewardship very seriously and they take pride in their high levels of adaptability and adoption of new technology, innovation and efficiencies.

The first three modules of Smartcane BMP are Soil Health and Nutrient Management, Irrigation and Drainage, and Weed, Pest and Disease Management – all critical elements for sustainability, productivity, and profitability.

A group of canegrowers attend one of many refresher courses in the Mackay area

Cane growers attend refresher courses.

Recently, a fourth module has been added to this first certification process, and this meets the new alignment of our own Australian BMP program with the global standards benchmarked by Bonsucro. This is not only good news for our Australian cane farming businesses, the Great Barrier Reef, and our waterways, but also for maintaining Australia’s already rock-solid reputation as the suppliers of clean, green sustainable sugar.

Attaining these standards will ensure the continued success of cane farming businesses in Australia – i.e. increased productivity and profitability with guaranteed access to global markets that are increasingly demanding certified sustainable raw sugar.

Green trash blanketing used for cane production in the Mackay region

Green trash blanketing.

We say: John Eden, Smartcane BMP facilitator (CANEGROWERS Mackay), “We urge all growers to continue to become involved in Smartcane BMP to prove their environmental stewardship and to improve productivity, profitability and water quality by using the science-based framework of Smartcane BMP to question and implement better practices where necessary and practicable. Access sustainable international sugar markets via the alignment process with Bonsucro as a risk mitigation strategy for your business.”- John Eden.

Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership group in Mackay

Stats and facts: As at 30 March 2017

  • Australian cane farming businesses benchmarked at the time of publication in the Smartcane BMP program – 1,530
  • Area benchmarked under the program – 267,591 ha
  • Businesses accredited under Smartcane BMP – 187
  • Area accredited under the Smartcane BMP program – 51,023 ha

More details: Smartcane

Who We Are

The Mackay-Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership (the Partnership) consists of 22 partners from community, industry, science, tourism, and government. The geographic area of the Partnership covers the catchments of the Don, O’Connell, Proserpine, Pioneer, and Plane basins, the urban area of Mackay, the ports of Abbot Point, Mackay, and Hay Point, marinas, and the coastal marine area.

The Partnership supports the development of an annual Mackay-Whitsunday report card,  which takes a nested approach to reporting and which aligns and integrates a range of regional monitoring programs. The Partnership is also seeking to take a whole-of-catchment approach to planning, and will integrate management approaches across organisations (e.g. looking at how the Mackay-Whitsunday Water Quality Improvement Plan, Reef Water Quality Protection Plan and the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, and other activities of partners, can help improve waterway health).

The Partnership draws on existing programs and collaborations, where possible, to ensure as much consistency across Queensland report cards, such as using the Reef Plan Independent Science Panel. More detail on how existing programs are being integrated into the Mackay-Whitsunday report card is provided in the Program Design.

The Partnership is hosted in the Mackay-Whitsunday region by
Reef Catchments Limited.

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