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The Freshcare Environmental Programme is now a recognised accreditation programme for commercial banana cultivation in the Great Barrier Reef Catchment, under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, after receiving recognition by the Queensland Government.

According to a release issued by Freshcare, 65 per cent of the banana industry in the Reef Catchment already demonstrate their commitment to protecting one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World through their Freshcare Environmental Programme certification, which goes beyond legislative requirements.

“These industry leaders are to be commended for their stewardship, creating a culture of sound environmental protection within their organisations,” the release stated.

Freshcare’s accreditation will provide a recognised pathway for all banana producers in the region to comply with the Queensland Government’s Reef protection regulations.

Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, Meaghan Scanlon, congratulated Freshcare on its constructive engagement throughout the accreditation process.

“We appreciate the commitment of Freshcare to delivering robust, accredited standards that are embedded within an assurance and certification model that is industry owned and self-funded.

“Banana growers who are seeking accreditation or re-accreditation will be supporting their business’s environmental outcomes, while demonstrating they meet the minimum legislative requirements for protecting the Great Barrier Reef water quality,” added Scanlon.

“Growers who are accredited with Freshcare Environmental Programme will be the lowest priority for a compliance inspection under the Reef protection regulations.

Freshcare chief executive Jane Siebum said recognition for Freshcare’s existing Environmental Programme was achieved through close collaboration with the Department of Environment and Science and the Australian Banana Growers’ Council.

“This is a terrific outcome and demonstrates the importance of having Australian developed, leading environmental practice standards that not only meet the needs of industry, but also the expectations of government in meeting regulatory requirements.

“We would welcome the opportunity to work with other industry and government areas across Australia to provide a similar solution to reduce the regulatory burden on growers, while still achieving government aims to ensure the protection of sensitive regions,” said Siebum.

Australian Banana Growers’ Council chief executive, Jim Pekin, acknowledged the benefits to growers and industry as a result of Freshcare’s recognition.

“This is a great outcome for banana growers with those Freshcare certified now a lower priority for compliance activities under the Act.

“We encourage other banana growers to become Freshcare certified and completing the self-assessment Best Management Practice process is a good place to start,” he concluded.