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Australia, the magazine : Australia, the magazine
environmental action 35 beyond what's happening under water. It's an ongoing process which has won buy-in from sections of the community not always associated with the ongoing health of the reef. In the sugarcane-growing region of Mackay in Northern Queensland, farmer Lawrence Bugeja is well aware of the reputation of his industry. "My kids would come back from school telling me teachers and classmates believe farmers are vandals, and are wrecking the reef. I was alarmed," he says. e connection is water quality. Run-o from properties like Bugeja's 100-hectare farm ows into the nearby Pioneer River and becomes drinking water for Mackay, and ultimately ends up on the reef. To improve the quality of his run-o , Bugeja has created an arti cial wetland at the point water leaves his farm, providing a natural water lter. He has planted 1000 native trees on either side of the wetland to head o erosion, and plants soy on his fallow land to help improve soil quality: "I am ge ing carbons up and pu ing nutrients back into the soil, plus, the way we've prepared our land the water runs where we want it so we reduce erosion," he says. Bugeja has also embarked on an education campaign to teach local children about the environmental impacts of his farm. "Initially, I invited representatives of the reef guardian schools and their teachers out here for a eld day. We wanted to get the message across that we are not vandals, and that farmers can work hand-in-hand with the environment. I explained that we get soil tests done so we know what nutrients to put on the soil, rather than just throwing on kilos of fertiliser. We also practice green cane har vesting, which means we keep the leaves and tops of the cane on the soil as a 'trash blanket'. It's a practice that protects the soil from erosion and reduces weeds." Bugeja says that while the environmental practices he has in place positively impact his yields, for him the value of his farm's commitment can't simply be measured in dollars: "How do you measure the value of education, or of 40 senior citizens si ing under the trees near our wetlands simply enjoying the place?" Back out on the reef, Lyle Squire Junior from Cairns Marine would no doubt agree. His business supplies marine life to public aquariums across the world. "Over 50 million people a year see our animals in public aquariums, those animals are ambassadors for their species, our region, and for conservation," he says. Squire says sustainability of the reef is vital in his industry, and that most of the operators get it. "It's dive-based, so people are actually on the bo om of the reef and can see any impact they make. A lot of the operators are husband and wife teams or small businesses, which helps foster a sense of stewardship; you are a custodian of that environment and are building something to leave your children." Squire was born into diving, and says the reef is far more than the place he makes his living. "It's integral to my personal identity, so it is not one of those things you take lightly. It's everything I know." It's this type of personal connection that has inspired Squire and his industry group (the licensed aquarium sh and coral collectors association, Pro-Vision Reef) to develop a stewardship action plan outlining their commitment to sustainable practices. Of course, being a third-generation businessman, Squire has his eyes on the more than just his own reputation. "My kids are the measure I go by. If I can look them in the eye and know I'm leaving things as good or be er than they were, I know I'm doing a good job." Keeping the reef healthy goes beyond what's happening underwater. Commonwealth of Australia (GBRMPA) Newspix