When Mackay cane farmer Tony Bugeja came face to face with one small green sea turtle, the actions he had taken to improve his farm water quality took on a whole new light.
“I always knew that what we do had a big effect downstream—water runs off farming properties into creeks and rivers, and from there into the sea, so what farmers do affects everyone down the line,” Tony said.
“But to see that turtle, it just confirmed to me that what I am doing, is the right thing.”
Tony recently joined WWF-Australia and Birri Gubba Elder Jim Gaston on a film shoot for a documentary piece to represent the good work being done to build the resilience of the iconic Great Barrier Reef.
As part of that, he helped Jim—nicknamed “Turtle Poppy” for his work with the Turtle Rescue Mission—to help tag a local Green Turtle in Edgecumbe Bay, near Bowen. The area is a hotspot for green turtles, which are tagged to help provide essential information on the health and numbers of the local turtle population.
“It was an amazing experience, very uplifting,” Tony said.
Tony is a Project Catalyst grower who continuously trials and adopts innovative and best-practice techniques for more sustainable farming. His work has been recognised previously as the Queensland winner of the 2012 SPRAY Award (Sustainable, Productive and Responsible Applicator of the Year) and runner-up for the 2013 Reef Rescue Sugarcane Farmer of the Year award.
Reef Catchments’ Belinda Billing said Tony was selected for the film to represent farmers in the Great Barrier Reef catchment because of his efforts to improve water quality coming off-farm.
“Tony is an inspiring example of what can be achieved as an ‘A class’ farmer who is able to incorporate sustainability and good business into his farm operations,” she said.
Tony said he was a firm believer in combining environmental responsibility and good sense.
“As the saying goes, there is no point being green if you’re in the red. But we have found in our experience that it comes down to just doing things more efficiently—when there is a dollar value and an improved environmental outcome, why wouldn’t you try something different?” he said.
“To me, everybody should be worried about things like soil erosion and water quality.
“I want to leave this farm for my son in a better condition than when it was given to me. I think that is in every farmer’s heart and to do that we need to look at how we can work with our natural systems, not against them.”