Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt is looking to the federal government for funding to upgrade the Innisfail Sewerage Treatment Plant in order to protect the Great Barrier Reef from potential harm.

“The Reef provides the basis for substantial economic activity with around two million tourists visiting the Reef each year,” Mr Pitt said.

“It generates in excess of $5 billion annually and underpinning around 50,000 Queensland jobs in the tourism sector alone.

Although not a federal matter, Mr Pitt has written to federal Environment Minister, the Honourable Peter Garrett MP, to secure funds to upgrade the plant which will have a direct impact on the water quality of the Great Barrier Reef.

“We cannot afford to play politics on this issue or be concerned with which level of government is responsible. The Great Barrier Reef is a shared responsibility and we must act now,” Mr Pitt said.

“I have invited Minister Garrett to meet with the Mayor Bill Shannon and myself as soon as possible to discuss this proposal.

“I am committed to working with Minister Garrett and the Mayor to achieve a full upgrade of the sewerage treatment plant that will provide not only great outcomes for the reef lagoon but also provide necessary local jobs.”

“I am determined to take whatever action is needed and to work with the Commonwealth to deliver real outcomes – for the sake of the Reef and the people whose jobs depend on it.

Cassowary Coast Regional Council Mayor Bill Shannon said he welcomed Mr Pitt’s efforts and supported the approach to the federal government.

“We must do everything we can to protect the natural icon of the Great Barrier Reef,” Cr Shannon said.

“The Cassowary Coast Regional Council is in a strained financial situation and simply cannot afford an upgrade at this time.

“A federal contribution to enable a capital upgrade of the sewerage treatment facilities would be appreciated. The Council would of course provide for the ongoing operational costs.”

Mr Pitt said the poor quality of water running into the Reef from catchments is a major threat to the reef.

“The State Government has been prepared to do the heavy lifting when it comes to confronting this issue, as evidenced by the Great Barrier Reef Protection Amendment Bill 2009 introduced into Parliament by Minister Kate Jones in June,” Mr Pitt said.

“Further, through the measures identified in the Reef Plan signed by the Premier and Minister Garrett recently, it expect that by 2013 we will halve the runoff of harmful nutrients and pesticides and ensure at least 80 per cent of agricultural enterprises and 50 per cent of grazing enterprises have adopted land management practices that will reduce runoff.

“However the Reef Outlook Report released last week identified that while the Reef is generally in good condition, it will decline significantly over the next 50 years unless strong and effective management action is taken now.

“Federal government support on this matter will not only solve Innisfail’s sewerage problems and improve water quality in the Reef lagoon, it will also provide a major economic boost at a time when it is most needed.

“As many as 260 full time equivalent jobs could be created based on the estimated investment of almost $33.5 million that would be needed for this work.”