reef trust water quality grants



A total of $1.5 million in water quality incentive grants is available to help growers improve the quality of water flowing off their farm.

The grants are part of the Australian Government’s Reef Trust Phase III program to reduce nutrient, pesticide and sediment losses from farms across the state.

From this program, $45.6 million is being provided to the Reef Alliance, which is led by Queensland Farmers’ Federation and includes CANEGROWERS and Terrain NRM. The role of the Reef Alliance is to coordinate the program across most of the Great Barrier Reef catchments. Of the $45.6 million, just over $9 million is allocated to delivering cane targets in the Wet Tropics region.

The Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership (WTSIP) is responsible for delivering the Reef Trust III program in this region, and for supporting progress towards Wet Tropics cane targets. WTSIP is a partnership of 17 organisations including industry bodies, productivity services, mills, natural resource management and government.

The overall focus of Reef Trust III is industry-led extension and training provided through WTSIP Extension Officers, with some direct financial support provided to growers through these grants. To find out who your local Extension Officer is go to



  • To provide targeted financial assistance to growers adopting the practices outlined in the ‘Moderate to Low Risk’ and 'Lowest Risk’ columns of the Paddock to Reef Sugarcane Water Quality Risk Framework (SWQRF). See Appendix 1 for more information.
  • To help growers implement integrated farming systems.
  • To invest in priority practices that will benefit water quality and growers in locations where they will have most impact.



  • Register of interest: Now open
  • Applications open: 26 February 2018
  • Application period closes: 27 April 2018
  • Assessment: mid-June 2018
  • Applicants notified: 29 June 2018
  • Project agreements sent to successful applicants: 13 July 2018
  • Project progress reporting due mid-Feb 2019
  • Projects must be completed by: 30 May 2019



  1. Register your interest:Start by following this link and entering your details into the form.
    **Please note that submitting your Register of Interest in the final stages of the application period (between 18-27 April) does not guarantee that a WTSIP Extension Officer will be able to assist you with your application.
  2. Do your benchmarking and mapping:
    WTSIP Extension Officer will contact you to help with the mandatory benchmarking and mapping and advise you on the application process. The benchmarking is an important first step to help you identify the best type of projects for your operation that will be eligible for a grant.
  3. Do your Smartcane BMP self-assessment:
    If you haven't already done Smartcane BMP self-assessment, go to This process will also help you identify the best type of projects for your operation that might be eligible for a grant.
  4. Prepare your answers and information
    Appendix 3 has a sample application form to help you understand what information to gather for your application and prepare your responses.
  5. Submit your application online
    Submit your application using the online form, by 27 April 2018. Go to

See section 9 for more detail.

**Please note that while these grants are similar to the previous Reef Rescue grants there are some important differences to be aware of, including the fact that there are no longer any grants officers available to develop and implement your project for you. However, your local WTSIP Extension Officer is available to provide guidance as part of their broader extension role.



To apply for a grant, you must:

  • Have an ABN.
  • Be regarded as a primary producer for taxation purposes and own or manage a cane-growing property within one of the major Wet Tropics river catchments (Daintree, Mossman, Barron, Mulgrave, Russell, Johnstone, Tully, Murray, Herbert), OR be a contractor or industry service-provider servicing such managers.
  • Be able to contribute a 50% co-investment for all projects.



The table below shows the project types eligible for an application. They are ranked with 1 being the highest priority.

Priority practice CodePriority PracticeWet Tropics Priority Ranking
6.5Nutrient application based on 6ES using site-specific information (e.g. yield history, yield-mapping and mapping or fixing yield constraints) for variable-rate fertilising within blocks.1
6.4Nutrient application based on 6ES using site specific information (e.g. yield history, yield-mapping and mapping or fixing yield constraints) 1
2.1All machines including harvesters and haul-outs operate on the same wheel spacing. Can include:
o Matching row widths to harvester and haulouts (at ≥ 1.8m).
o GPS on Harvesting fleet or farm machinery if transitioning to ≥ 1.8m
o Includes widening of equipment if transitioning to ≥ 1.8m
10.2Banding of residual herbicides & directed /shielded spraying of knockdowns1
17.4Integrated farm drainage.2
5.4Zero tillage for planting (conditions apply).2
4.7Zero tillage legumes /cover crop (direct-drilled through the trash)2
4.6Zonal tilled legume /cover crop: (non-PTO powered)4
5.3Zonal tillage - planting: non- PTO powered.4
15.4Irrigation scheduling.5
7.4Sub-surface fertiliser placement.6
17.3Sediment/ nutrient traps 9
4.6Zonal tillage - legumes: PTO powered.9
5.3Zonal tillage - planting: PTO powered.9

Projects involving a move to controlled traffic will have a contractual obligation for plantings on the project properties for 2018 and 2019, to be at 1.8m or greater.

For more detail on these Priority Practices see Appendix 4. 

It is important to be familiar with these practice descriptions and codes as they are used throughout the grants process. They will help determine if your project will result in any 'practice change'.



  • Projects that are variations of a current practice rather than a full practice change.
  • Upgrades to existing equipment that do not result in a practice change.
  • Replacement of existing old equipment.
  • Purchase of tractors, farm vehicles or fuel.
  • High-rise spray machines.
  • Irrigation systems other than scheduling equipment.
  • Insecticide equipment (e.g. confidor tanks).
  • Salaries.
  • Operating and maintenance that are normal responsibilities for managing a property.
  • Activities that are required by law, such as managing or controlling certain weeds or pests.
  • The landholder’s time (include this as an in-kind contribution).
  • The landholder’s machinery (include this as an in-kind contribution).
  • Conventional soil improvement activities such as ‘maintenance’ application of lime and/or gypsum and other conventional contracted services.



Water Quality Grant CategoryGrant purposeGrant amount
Single farmFor individual land managers to implement improved land management practicesUp to $25,000
Multiple farmFor collaborative projects where groups of independent land managers or a contractor and land managers implement improved land management practicesUp to $80,000
Mill area/districtFor larger scale collaborative projects within a mill area or district, to implement improved land management practices Up to $100,000

Note: Grants of more than $40,000 must be approved by the Australian Government.


What are multi-farm projects?

Multi-farm projects are those involving two or more independent farming entities. In these applications all partners are required to:

  • Sign the application and contract.
  • Complete the benchmarking and mapping exercise.
  • Complete Smartcane BMP self-assessment before close of applications.
  • Make practice change related to the project. Some exceptions may apply (eg harvesting groups), where a change by some of the partners will bring about significant change for the group as a whole. Seek further advice from the grants administrators.
  • Complete a Nutrient Management Plan by the end of the project.
  • Obtain Smartcane BMP Accreditation by the end of the project.

One  person is to be nominated as the main point of contact on behalf of the group. They will be responsible for receiving all correspondence, ensuring everyone provides their reporting information and receiving the funds on behalf of the group.

What about contractors and service providers?

Contractors and service providers who implement changes on other people’s properties, or provide services to a number of growers, should apply for a multiple farm project. You will be the primary applicant and you can decide how many growers to nominate for the project.

In order for your project to claim an ‘area of impact' however, all the managers of properties that make up that area have to be formal partners that sign the contract, undertake the benchmarking and mapping exercise and complete Smartcane BMP self-assessment before close of applications (if you don't manage land in the project yourself, you don't need to do this).

What are district-scale projects?

Similar to multi-farm but on a larger scale involving many growers in a mill-area, district or sub-district. These require a high level of organisation. We recommend discussing these projects with a WTSIP Extension Officer and grants administrators as soon as possible.



1. Read the guidelines

These guidelines are your main source of information. Your application must meet all the requirements in these guidelines so please read them carefully before contacting a WTSIP Extension Officer, registering your interest or submitting an application. If you have any queries regarding the guidelines contact Bruce Corcoran on or 0438 720 179.

2. Register your interest

If you are interested in applying for a project grant, the first step is to follow this link and register your interest. It will take you to a simple online form. You will need to provide the following details:

  • Name, address and contact details (including a reliable email address)
  • Major catchment
  • Area of interest
  • Which program you are interested in (Reef Trust 3)
  • If you are applying for a single, multi-farm or district-scale project

A WTSIP Extension Officer can help with this if necessary.

Please note: The Register of Interest form is used for all enquiries regarding programs and services provided by WTSIP and Terrain. Once you tick the box for Reef Trust 3 it will automatically provide information for you as a RT3 grant applicant.

3. Complete the Smartcane BMP self-assessment

Smartcane BMP is an initiative of the sugar industry and complements the Reef Trust III and Paddock to Reef programs regarding cane practice change for water quality and productivity. For more information, go to or contact your local CANEGROWERS office. Similar to the benchmarking exercise, this self-assessment will help you identify what aspects of your operation can be improved regarding water quality that may qualify for grants or extension.

4. Complete benchmarking and mapping

After registering your interest, a WTSIP Extension Officer will contact you to complete the benchmarking and mapping.

  • Benchmarking uses a series of questions to determine how you are currently farming and where your current practices sit in relation to the Sugarcane Water Quality Risk Framework. It will help determine if your project will meet the criteria of the grants program before you spend too much time on your application. For more detail on benchmarking and practice change see Appendix 4.
  • Detailed mapping of your proposed project area is also required as part of your application. Your WTSIP Extension Officer will help you with this. Please bring your farm mill-maps along with you.

5. Develop your project

Your Smartcane BMP self-assessment and your benchmarking will indicate areas of possible improvement and these should guide your project selection. Your proposed project must result in a practice change.

Use the sample application form in Appendix 3 as a practice for the online application. This has instructions and tips on how to respond to the questions.

If you still have queries after reading these guidelines and appendices please talk to your WTSIP Extension Officer, or contact the grants administrator on: or 0438 720 179.

6. Submit your application online

Go to to submit your grant application by 27 April 2018.

You will need a reliable email address. If this is not possible, contact a WTSIP Extension Officer. Instructions on how to access and use the online application form will be sent to you after you register your interest. Once you start your application, you will be able to stop, save and resume your application at any stage during the application period.

A WTSIP Extension Officer will help you with your online application if requested. However, it is your responsibility to provide the requested information at the standard of quality that you wish your project to be assessed on.



Your application will be assessed by a panel appointed by WTSIP. Their expertise ranges across cane farming, cane harvesting, cane research and extension, water quality research and extension, cane industry body representation and WTSIP management committee representation.

The panel will assess:

1. Your online application form

We recommend submitting a well-rounded application that justifies your proposal and addresses all the criteria well, rather than addressing some things really well and others poorly or not at all.

2. Whether a practice change will result from your project

The practice resulting from your proposed project will be compared to your current practices using information from the benchmarking exercise. This comparison must show a change in order for your project to be approved. See Appendix 4 for more information.

3. How well your project scores on the following criteria

If the panel agrees that your project will result in a practice change it will then be scored on the weighted criteria below.

Priority practice ranking40%This score reflects the ranks of the priority practice you intend adopting.
Reef Calculator value for money20%This score comes from a modelling tool developed by Paddock to Reef which takes into account:
o Existing practices at the project location
o The new practices being adopted
o Cost of the project
o Area of the project
o The expected reduction in nitrogen, herbicides & sediment loss resulting from the project, which is dependent on the soils, slope & rainfall at the project location.
Assessor value for money20%This is the panel's expert opinion of the overall value for money of your project.
Justification20%This score reflects how well you have justified your proposed project in terms of:
o improvements identified by Smartcane BMP and the benchmarking exercise.
o the narrative questions in the application, including addressing the recommendations given for each question
o quality of the budget information
o quality of supporting information eg quotes, photos, drawings /diagrams/ designs
o meeting the requirements of these guidelines
o overall attention to detail and commitment to the project.

The panel may seek specialist external advice if required. The decision of the panel will be final and the degree of feedback on unsuccessful applications will be at the panel’s discretion.



If your project is successful you will be notified by 29 June 2018 and sent a project agreement by 13 July 2018.

The project agreement will be with Terrain NRM on behalf of WTSIP. You will also be sent a cover letter outlining the terms and a tax invoice template.

You will receive your first payment after you return the signed project agreement.
The terms within this project agreement are in line with the Australian Government’s funding requirements.



  1. The first payment (40%) will be paid when you submit your signed project agreement and invoice.
  2. The final payment (60%) will be paid after your final report is submitted
  3. Projects involving a move to controlled-traffic row spacing are required to have all commercial cane plantings for 2018 and 2019 at this spacing. As some planting may be done after the project completion date of 30 May 2019, the following payments schedule will apply:
  • 40% of project funds on signing of contract
  • 40% on final report and inspection by May 2019
  • 20% on completion of all 2019 plantings and inspection


Once you have signed and returned your project agreement, you will need to:

  • Manage and complete the project in line with the project agreement by 30 May 2019.
  • Obtain any relevant consents, approvals or permits.
  • Use the funds only for the purchase of the goods or services shown in the contract.
  • Provide itemised expenditure on the project including in-kind and cash contributions.
  • Develop a Nutrient Management Plan with a WTSIP Extension Officer by the end of the project.
  • Become Smartcane BMP accredited by the end of project.
  • Provide after-photos of the funded project sites or equipment.
  • Provide reports, documents, maps, software or other documentation funded by the project.
  • Complete the project by the end date in your project agreement. If this is not possible, you must return the first payment. No extensions will be approved beyond the expiry date.

Please note: Becoming Smartcane BMP accredited requires time and planning so contact your SCBMP officer as soon as possible.



After signing the project agreement, you will be responsible for managing all aspects of the project. This includes completing a progress report and final report. For multi-farm/contractor projects, it is the primary applicant’s responsibility to ensure that all the partner applicants meet their obligations. The Project Plan developed during your application should help with managing tasks and timelines.

Please note:

  • Significant changes to your project will not be considered unless they are due to legitimate and unforeseeable circumstances. Requests must be submitted in writing and outline the changes, including any adjustment to the approved cash/in-kind components. The co-contribution must remain at least 50% of the budget.
  • The specifications of any equipment or works requested as a variation, must be equal to or higher than the original and the cost must be equal to or lower than the original.
  • If the changes are approved, you will receive a formal variation of the signed contract.
  • Please be aware that any unapproved changes other than those ‘within reason’, that become apparent upon final inspection, may result in the delay or non-approval of your final payment.



After your project is completed you will need to:

  • Meet with a WTSIP Extension Officer within six months of the end of the project to record the practical implementation and outcomes of the project.
  • Make project sites available for demonstrations to other landholders for up to 18 months (by arrangement).
  • Provide access to the project site to WTSIP staff and/or agents for monitoring and evaluation.
  • Refund the proceeds of the sale of any machinery or equipment that you bought with the project funds within three years of signing your project agreement.
  • Be aware that WTSIP staff may conduct an audit within 3 years of the end of your project.



You will need to complete a final report (template provided), by the expiry date of your project agreement that includes:

  • Confirmation of full completion of the contracted deliverables due by 30 May 2019.
  • After-photos that clearly show the completed project.
  • An expenditure report (template provided).

Expenditure Report

The expenditure report details expenses incurred by the project. You must only use the funds provided to you for the purchase of the goods or services shown in the project agreement. The amounts spent on these items will need to align, ‘within reason’, with the budget breakdown in your application.

  • ‘Within reason’ means that minor variations, for example, one component costing slightly more and another slightly less, but with both maintaining their original specifications, will be accommodated.
  • Significant variations, for example higher costs for one component being compensated for by not completing another project task or by purchasing another component of inferior specifications to the original, will not be accepted.
  • Any extra project costs resulting from un-approved variations, changes in prices from suppliers or from general over-expenditure, are to be borne by you.
  • Cash and in-kind contributions can be higher than originally stipulated, but not lower.



When you have completed the project, a Nutrient Management Plan, Smartcane BMP Accreditation and the final report, a senior WTSIP extension representative will arrange an inspection. If they are satisfied with the project, they will sign-off on the final report. You can then submit the final report and receive final payment.

APPENDIX 1 - Reef Plan Paddock to Reef Water Quality Risk Framework

APPENDIX 2 - Paddock to Reef benchmarking questions

APPENDIX 3 - How to fill in an application and sample form

APPENDIX 4 - Priority practices, benchmarking and practice change

APPENDIX 5 - Important budget information

APPENDIX 6 - Cane equipment specifications

APPENDIX 7 - Advice for drainage projects


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