A note from our Chair, Julie Boyd
Reef Catchments had a year of consolidation that has seen it finish in a positive position. The staff displayed tremendous resilience and drive, often working with reduced resources, but they have ensured that we met the requirements of our funders and stakeholders. I would like to thank them for continuing the excellent work that supports our community and the region.
The annual members field trip was well received and those who attended enjoyed the presentations and seeing first-hand the innovation that was demonstrated by the property owners that we visited. Thank you to those who opened their properties for the day - take a look at a few of the sites we visited, below.
Katrina Dent, our General Manager, has worked extremely hard in ensuring that we had the best opportunity for improved funding. The Disaster Recovery work following Tropical Cyclone Debbie is completed on time and budget and we then received extra funding to undertake further works.
We said farewell to Sally Young as the Business Manager and we wished Sally well with her move south and thanked her for changing many of the organisation's processes to ensure that our reporting was greatly improved. We welcomed Traci Ellwood as the Business Manager and look forward to her contribution to the business. We also farewelled Frank Perna, who provided excellent agricultural advice and welcomed Cr Jan Clifford and Bill Macdonald to the Board. Thank you to all Directors whom I am delighted to have the privilege of working with. Stability of the Board has been paramount to our success along with its members' continued commitment and passion.
General Manager's update, Katrina Dent
New NRM investment opportunities were open to the National and State NRM Bodies, through the National Landcare Program – Phase 2, and the Queensland Natural Resource Investment Program. The Reef Catchments team engaged with landholders, partners, industry and key stakeholders to plan and develop new funding applications based on our regional needs.
To date Reef Catchments has been successful in securing $6,120,000 over 5 years for activities such as:
- Updating the regional NRM plan
- Indigenous participation
- Grazing management interventions and activities to improve water quality
- Improving the ecological condition of freshwater streams and wetlands
- Continued investment in the Paddock to Reef program
- Islands project - undertaking invasive species management and marine debris activities that will lead to the reduction of threats to the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
- Up-skilling farmers to adapt to changes in climate and market demands to secure the future of sustainable food production
Over the last 12 months, Reef Catchments has worked hard to improve and re-invigorate existing and new relationships with funders and regional partners. We will continue to work and improve in this area, as ‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success’ – Henry Ford
Disaster recovery works (stage one)
Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie crossed the Queensland coast in the Whitsundays in March 2017, leaving widespread destruction. Waterways in many areas were flooded and cut away banks up to 30m into productive land. Banks were stripped of vegetation, leaving sheer unstable banks highly susceptible to further erosion.
Reef Catchments is now working to restore and increase the resilience of our region in response to the impact of natural disasters.
The Australian and Queensland governments have provided funding through the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangement (NDRRA) to rehabilitate highly impacted areas and increase the resilience of the region's waterways.
OAKY CREEK - major collaborative work has taken place with the Oaky Creek community and landholders.
- Works along Oaky Creek will be undertaken at up to eight sites and include the use of rock reinforcement and/or large woody debris.
- An extensive revegetation program will be rolled out to provide a biodiverse riparian vegetation buffer and provide long-term stability.
- Oaky Creek has undergone a reach scale assessment including community consultation, spatial analysis and hydrological modelling to create a detailed restoration plan.
Stage two disaster recovery funding saw over $3.8M committed to the region to complete projects including twelve Reef Catchments sites spread over five priority creeks.
Reef Catchments disaster recovery projects have a long-term goal to help build a landscape more equipped to withstand and recover from any natural disasters of the future, to protect public and private infrastructure, including high value agricultural land, and reduce sediment loss and ultimately improve reef water quality. Works will be completed at Cherry Tree Creek, Marion Creek, St Helens Creek, West Hill Creek and the O'Connell River.
A variety of restoration techniques will be used, including rock reinforcement, creation of log jams and pile fields all complemented with revegetation and site maintenance programs. These works look to stabilise and/or train watercourses, dampen future flow velocities, provide in-stream roughness to facilitate sediment accumulation and provide habitat.
All works are due to be completed by the end of June 2019.
Project outcomes include:
- 50 large logs with root balls (large woody debris) embedded into banks with roots exposed.
- 1700 x 6m long hard wood timber piles driven into banks to form pile fields.
- 18,000 tonnes of rock used to reinforce complementary structures and create stable rock toes.
- Engagement of landcare groups in propagation, planting and site maintenance works wherever possible to enhance community benefits.
- Prevention of a potential anticipated ongoing sediment loss of over 14,000 tonnes per annum.
Mackay and Whitsunday Regional Council’s and the Whitsunday River Improvement Trust also received funding for projects under the NDRRA. Works will be conducted at sites on the Proserpine River, Campbell Creek in the Whitsundays and Little McCready’s Creek, Mackay.
For more information see www.reefcatchments.com.au/water/disaster-recovery/
The Australian Government's Reef Trust 3 (RT3) program is equipping local cane farmers to make cost-effective changes to specific farm practices. These changes help improve runoff and water quality in local cane growing catchments.
RT3 provides support, extension, planning, and funding incentives to lower cost and other barriers to adoption of practice change. To date, the take-up of the program - which has focused on fertiliser and pesticide application improvements - has been excellent.
The extension planning and benchmarking of each grower is a core knowledge component and has been a focus this year. All growers joining the program have worked with agricultural extension officers to develop fertiliser and pesticide plans that capture how to carry out best management practices on their properties.
95 growers have received major grant contracts to capture key practice change outcomes, as detailed in their planning. In addition this collaborative project has worked with industry to increase knowledge and skills. Events have included a bus field tour with Plane Creek Productivity Services Limited, shed workshop collaborations with Project Catalyst and an RT3 workshop for variable rate application systems and technology.
- Area of focus - Sarina, Mackay and Proserpine mill areas.
- Incentives - RT3 is designed to provide incentives which can overcome the barriers which may be restricting current farm practice change and improvement.
- Included - These incentives include one-on-one extension farm planning support and benchmarking, small funding grants of $1,500 per grower, and major funding grants of up to $15,000 per grower.
“Management of specific issues on a farm-by-farm basis is essential to improve productivity and minimise the potential for losses from applied nutrients and pesticides on farm.
"Therefore my farming systems are tailored to suit the specific conditions for each farm.”
- Graeme Blackburn, RT3 sugar cane farmer
“The new hi-rise sprayer allows better timing of spray applications with dual tank capacity for long spray durations and split applications delivering both knockdown and residual sprays.
"Existing older spraying equipment did not have the capacity for rapid application of knockdowns when required.”
- Bruce Neilsen, RT3 sugar cane grower
“My old side dresser fertilizer unit did not place fertilizer at the correct depth. The modified tool splitter with its double disc openers and spiked closing wheels overcame those problems.”
- Dylan Wedel, RT3 sugar cane farmer
Reef Catchments works closely with our region's Traditional Owners. We take pride in weaving valuable cultural knowledge into natural resource management planning and projects across our region.
Phase one of the Australian Government's National Landcare Program (ended June 2018) benchmarked five years of strong support from Reef Catchments to the Traditional Owner Reference Group (TORG).
The TORG works towards protecting cultural heritage throughout the region and increasing community understanding of Indigenous culture. The group is made up of representatives from each of the seven tribes across the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region - the Ngaro, Gia, Juru, Yuwibara, Koinjmbal, Wiri and Barada tribes.
Over 2017-18 the TORG met three times, coming together from across the state to conduct business. Before the program ended the TORG met for seven days to go on Country. They visited sites including the Whitsunday Islands, St Helens, Cape Palmerston and Cape Hillsborough, working with consultants to record the condition of known cultural heritage sites. An assessment of these sites was provided to the Mackay-Whitsundays Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership, to include in the 2018 report card cultural heritage score.
The TORG also released their Strategic Plan, which records the vision, values, principles and purpose of the Group, as well as recommendations and actions for achieving these targets. The plan has been extremely useful in assisting Reef Catchments to fully understand the long-term outlook for the TORG, and how we can assist them to reach their goals.
The TORG has been involved in a large number of meetings, site visits and training events, all geared at increasing the capacity of the group and their connection to Country. View the TORG's strategic plan, click here.
“It is a very special experience to be on Country with the Traditional Owners because their love and connection to Country is so palpable.”
- Emma Maxwell, Mackay-Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership
Through the Australian Government's Island's sub-project, Reef Catchments facilitated the removal of 2.6 tonnes of marine debris from islands around the Whitsundays, and removed habitat altering weeds from Goldsmith and Thomas Islands.
This project was part of phase one of the National Landcare Program, which ended June 18. The project's focus was to remove weed species and marine debris from island ecosystems, while also increasing community awareness of the value and importance of island health. Work is done in close collaboration with community organisations and volunteers, who make the project a success.
Eco Barge ran six marine debris removal trips in the Whitsundays, and were assisted by 48 volunteers. Wild Mob delivered three weed control trips to Goldsmith and Thomas Islands, and were joined by 23 volunteers. All together, volunteer in-kind contributions were calculated to be worth $25,380.
- 6 unique communications materials released to improve community awareness of island NRM issues, including media releases, e-news and a case study
- Average volunteer rating of 2017-18 Eco Barge trips is 4.95 out of 5
Marine island education
With thanks to Rio Tinto Community Development Fund, Reef Catchments was able to deliver two Marine Classrooms trips to the Whitsundays. Students from Mackay State High School and Mackay North State High School camped on South Molle Island for three days each. The students were involved in hands-on conservation activities, including weed control, coral surveying and removal of marine debris. The purpose of these trips is to inspire senior high school students to pursue a career in conservation, marine biology, environmental science or management, and connect them with the environment.
We have invited the community to be involved in every aspect of the islands sub-project, raising awareness and concern for the many issues that our island environments face. Take a look at a trip, here.
“What a fantastic opportunity to spend time helping to return turtle habitat to its natural state through weed management and collection of marine debris. Wonderful to feel like you are a part of the solution.”
- Merrilyn, Wildmob volunteer
“These funded [marine debris] clean-up trips increased awareness and allowed more volunteers to come out and see the impacts of marine debris first hand, therefore educating them in the issues of marine debris, and what they can do to prevent it."
- Fiona Broadbent, Project Coordinator Eco Barge
The Mackay-Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership (HR2RP) - 25 organisations committed to understanding and improving the health of Mackay-Whitsunday waterways and marine environments.
Find out who we are and what we do, below.
Have you seen our last report card?
How has the Whitsunday region fared in the time since Cyclone Debbie?
During 2017-18, the Mackay-Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership has:
- Expanded the Partnership’s staff from two to three in order to progress a number of priority technical projects (e.g. data automation, development of new indicators, development of special communications initiatives).
- Continued to strengthen our annual report card by developing new indicators (estuarine and freshwater flow), undertaking monitoring to fill gaps (southern inshore reporting zone for coral, water quality and seagrass) and improved existing indicators (for example via a State-government led review of our urban stewardship framework).
- Improved the timeliness of data collection to report card release. Working with our data providers has meant that the 2018 report card will be released 5 months earlier than previous report cards have been (June 2019).
- Maximised communications and engagement opportunities throughout the year such as the celebration of International Year of the Reef via a Partner pledge campaign (21 partners pledged a range of actions to help the Reef – take a look here).
- Cemented the Partnership’s technical objectives and strategic direction for the next 5 years via the development of a 5-year technical Program Plan and review of the Partners strategic objectives.
Key achievements have included:
- The release of the 2016 report card (October 2017).
- We retained a membership base of 23 Partners, and added two new Partners in August 2018. This demonstrates the continuing benefits of membership to the Partnership for our Partners.
- We successfully reduced the lagtime of data collection to report card release for our 2018 report card.
- We developed a communications network and met three times within the 2017/18 year.
- We initiated local International Year of the Reef activities and promotion.
- We collectively developed a special communications product detailing the impacts of and response to Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie in the Whitsunday area.
- We have undertaken another round of indigenous cultural heritage assessments for the 2018 report card, working with the Mackay-Whitsunday Traditional Owner Reference Group to assess sites in the Whitsunday Islands, St. Helens, Cape Hillsborough and Cape Palmerston areas. New sites were assessed in all reporting zones. Be sure to check out our 2018 report card for the results of this project (released mid-2019).
- We expanded the Partnership’s Technical Working Group to include the Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership and the Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters.
Reef Catchments, working with environmental consultants Catchment Solutions, is making major headway in fish health and passage in our region. Constructed fishways (structures designed to help fish overcome barriers and move through the landscape to breed and complete their life cycle) are proving hugely successful.
As part of the Australian Government's National Landcare Program, fish counted moving through a constructed fish passage in Mackay have been recorded at a record rate of 31,000 a day. Fish ecologists note this figure may be among the highest in the country, above those previously recorded in the Murray and Burnett rivers. Findings strongly support the effectiveness and benefits of fishways to fish stocks in the Mackay Whitsunday region.
Reef Catchments also contracted Catchment Solutions to continue fish monitoring trials on the Pioneer River and Rocky Dam Creek demonstration sites. This monitoring and economic analysis identified significant economic outcomes including an estimated 7.5% return on investment into fishways to the fishing industry specific to Barramundi.
Local community group Pioneer Catchment Landcare was subcontracted to assist with monitoring activities as a capacity building activity and to provide their local expertise and insights into the process. The trial also identified extremely low numbers of fish moving through a fishway in the south of the region. Although the fishway is functioning correctly, low levels of dissolved oxygen upstream are thought to be connected to a weed infestation. This monitoring provided evidence to apply for a program of wetland restoration works to improve dissolved oxygen in the wetlands. This program will begin in late 2018, and is valued at $1.8 million, thanks to funding from the Queensland Government.
"This is by far the most fish we have ever recorded in any local fishway. These are exciting results that demonstrate the importance of facilitating connectivity past fish barriers, particularly the first barrier located upstream from the estuary."
- Matt Moore, fisheries ecologist, Catchment Solutions
Through the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program, Reef Catchments worked with industry leaders in fisheries, grazing, horticulture and sugarcane to improve the uptake of sustainable production practices that improve soil health, reduce farm runoff and improve social, economic and environmental sustainability.
Management practices were implemented across 84,000 ha of land, with 177 farming entities involved.
The program also supported nine members of Central Queensland Soil Health Systems along with a group of 19 growers from Far North Queensland to attend a Soil Health Innovation Tour in March 2018. Agroecologist, David Hardwick from Soil Land Food, travelled with the group to provide interpretation of the on-farm practices. The group visited a range of operations over the 5 days.
Take a look at the trip here - this video shows some interesting locations, innovative practices and a whole lot of fun!
Improved water quality via targeted grazing management - through funding from the Queensland Regional Natural Resource Management Investment Program, Reef Catchments worked with grazing landholders to undertake activities with demonstrated water quality benefits.
This project engaged with local grazing landholders to accelerate the adoption of best management land practices within priority sub-catchments to provide measurable water quality outcomes and improve the condition, connectivity, physical stability and resilience of riparian areas. On-ground activities included:
- Riparian fencing
- Off-stream watering points
- Gully remediation
- Ground cover monitoring
- Property planning
These activities directly resulted in the protection and enhancement of streambank vegetation and bank stability.
- 0.57 hectares of land protected from or treated for erosion through engineering works (target = 0.4 ha)
- 88 hectares of riparian vegetation enhanced or rehabilitated (target = 5 ha)
Property planning for project participants was undertaken as a prerequisite to obtaining funding grants for on-ground works. Funding grants consisted of direct payment of up to 40% of total costs (to a maximum of $8,000 per landholder).
A total of 16 grazing landholders completed the property planning component, with 15 of these contracted to undertake on-ground activities and benchmarking for the Paddock to Reef Program. For the July 2017 to June 2018 period, all project tasks and outputs were met or exceeded.
“The grass is going really well in the excluded areas, particularly along the salt pans where we get a fair bit of runoff and some erosion was occurring. I am really pleased with the early outcomes and will keep track of the progression when we start to rehabilitate those areas.”
- Fiona O’Sullivan, grazier, Sarina Beaches
"[Through the RLF program] I could find out exactly what was going on [in my soil], and it’s been very beneficial for me."
- Warren Thompson, horticulture, Mt Charlton
Our region's Regional Landcare Facilitator (RLF) - Juliane Kasiske, continues to work closely with farmers to assist and support the implementation of best management practice, aimed at securing farm productivity and water run-off impacting the Great Barrier Reef.
Juliane is involved with the sugar cane, grazing, forestry and horticulture industries, where she focuses on advising, facilitating, and coordinating various stakeholders in the planning and implementation of strategic projects and the promotion of NRM activities. Juliane's strong relationship with farmers allows her to deliver and support exciting capacity building activities targeted to the needs of producers.
These activities connect members of the farming community with community groups and the agriculture industry to build knowledge in areas including soil health, innovation, and water quality.
Annual activities like the Innovative Grazing Forum, held in March, and the Healthy Soils Symposium, held in November, continue to attract over 100 participants from the agricultural space.
During 2017-18, the RLF program focused on increasing farmers’ knowledge of sustainable land management by facilitating Regional Working Groups for grazing, forestry and horticulture.
Community and industry members reviewed and updated the most recent ABCD sustainability frameworks to further guide and promote best management practices. Take a look at our ABCD guides, below.
Through the programme, Juliane was also able to up-skill and support community groups such as the Greater Whitsunday Food Network, the Central Queensland Soil Health Systems and the region's three Landcare groups.
- Strong continuous turn out to annual key events like the Innovative Grazing Forum and the Healthy Soils Symposium.
- Supporting community groups in the delivery of fun capacity building activities such as the Central Queensland Soil Health Systems – Sunset Symphony in the Sunflowers, and the Greater Whitsunday Food Network’s – Farm to Plate Dinner and Bus Tour.
- Maintaining and building supportive networks between community groups, landholders, and industry representatives to ensure an effective delivery of agricultural activities in the region.
- Ministerial visit – MP Luke Hartsyker visiting some of our regions champion farmers.
- Refining the ABCD Sustainability Guides to provide a user-friendly guide on best management practices to the agricultural community.
"The trip [cross regional study tour co-funded by the RLF] has been great, it’s good to have a talk to all of the like-minded farmers to see what they’re doing, to more or less back up what we’re doing, and to see if I can gain anything from them. It’s been a great trip."
- Allan McLean, cane and grazing, Kuttabul
The Regional Landcare Facilitator program is funded through the Australian Government's National Landcare Program.
Reef Catchments has continued to deliver Systems Repair activities to build resilience and repair the landscape. Over the past year Reef Catchments has been delivering the Australian Governments Reef Trust IV Gully and Streambank Erosion control program.
Within the Mackay Whitsunday region Reef Catchments is specifically focusing on streambank erosion as this is a dominant source of sediment exported to the Great Barrier Reef.
The program of works will be delivered over five years, concluding in 2021, this provides the opportunity for long-term outcomes. The program focuses on four priority sub catchments within the region which were identified after completing a region wide stream classification (Alluvium, 2014). The priority sub catchments deemed to have high instability and are prone to erosion include: the O’Connell, Saint Helens creek, Murray Creek and Cattle Creek.
Key outcomes of the program are to develop and stabilise long stretches of river and assess and evaluate the activities undertaken, documenting and reporting on lessons learned. We will also assess how effective the program has been in increasing knowledge and understanding of riverine processes and the importance of a healthy riparian zone. During 2017-18 Reef Catchments identified key reaches within the eligible river systems using historical aerial imagery over-layed with recent aerial imagery. This allowed areas of erosion and deposition to be identified.
- Project proposals covering 37 ha developed
- Greater understanding of the soil particle size within eligible subcatchments
Landholder engagement for system repair has been extensive.
We have utilised aerial imagery to start discussions with landholders about stream bank erosion. Engagement included one-on-one discussions with landholders and environmental engineers to discuss riverine processes and remediation approaches. Reef Catchments also undertook the acquisition of a new LiDar dataset capture to create Digital Terrain Models (DTM’s) to act as a baseline for future monitoring and evaluation.
During the past year Reef Catchments submitted funding proposals for 37 ha of remediation within the O’Connell and Saint Helens subcatchments. Works to be undertaken include weed control, active revegetation, riparian fencing and engineered bank protection.
The Coastal sub-project, funded through the Australian Government's National Landcare Program, encompassed a wide range of activities, from pest and weed control, community education and fire management.
Works targeted high-value areas, particularly where there are fragments of the critically endangered beach scrub vegetation. The purpose of the project was to implement activities to conserve species and ecosystems that are Matters of National Environmental Significance (MNES).
In this past year, the Coasts team oversaw more than 450 ha of weed control in key sites including Cape Palmerston National Park, Apsley Creek, Nelly Bay, Sandringham Conservation Park and Carmila Beach.
We also engaged five rural fire brigades, updated their fire management plans and delivered training about burning for ecological outcomes, with great results!
Tilapia awareness event
The Coasts team was very progressive in the pest management space over the past 12 months. Hosting one of Reef Catchments’ largest events, geared at increasing community awareness about invasive aquatic species – Tilapia in particular. More than 300 participants registered for the pest fish fishing competition at the Gooseponds.
Rocky the conservation dog
In addition to this, the region’s first fox control project was undertaken. Reef Catchments worked with Mackay Regional Council and North Queensland Bulk Ports to support Rocky, a trained conservation dog, to come to the region and locate fox dens. This allowed land managers to implement highly targeted and highly effective fox control measures.
“We found five active fox dens on our Wetland Walkabout property a few months ago. They have now been treated with great success. Thanks to everyone involved, as we could have not done this alone. Now our wildlife babies can populate again.”
- Donna Rek, Wetland Walkabout property owner
Local Coastal Plans
Reef Catchments were engaged by Mackay Regional Council to deliver Local Coastal Plans (LCP’s). This year, two new Plans were developed for the Midge Point and Slade Point coastal units. The LCP’s assist council in understanding the various assets and issues across beaches throughout the region, and prioritise management actions.
In addition to these on-ground conservation actions, Reef Catchments has organised or participated in 22 events and produced 29 unique materials over the past year, for the purpose of engaging our regional community and increasing their understanding of NRM.
Reef Catchments invests strategically into pest and weed management projects to address significant threats to the environment, economy and social assets across the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region.
Thanks to funding from the QLD Regional Natural Resource Management Investment Program 2013-2018, this project has significantly enhanced monitoring and control of pests and weeds.
If unmanaged, these problem pests and weeds have the potential to spread or further establish in neighboring areas, increasing the cost of control. Target species included Cats claw creeper, Giant rat's tail grass, Itch grass, Mimosa pigra, Pond apple, Rubber vine and feral pigs.
Priority species are selected in collaboration with key regional stakeholders, including members of the Mackay Regional Pest Management Group (MRPMG). The Regional Pest Management Strategy Mackay Whitsunday Isaac 2011 – 2014 also guided the selection of target species. Locations for treatment and control were identified based on survey and mapping data, with priorities identified through local knowledge of project partners and key stakeholders.
All sub-projects within this program successfully achieved their milestones during the past year, with significant progress made. This project includes a continuation of previous regional investment and builds on four years of consistent and coordinated efforts towards the strategic control of priority pest and weeds in the region. These activities were delivered in partnership with regional Landcare Groups, Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac Regional Councils, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, industry bodies and the MRPMG.
“I've never seen them [Goorganga wetlands] looking so good [due to feral pig control program].”
- Whitsunday landholder
The support provided through the Queensland Government has resulted in best practice learnings around pest management, and built technical capacity within Reef Catchments and partner organisations. By supporting Landcare groups, regional capacity to target pest species beyond this project has also been enhanced.
Feedback, recommendations and information from landholders and the community obtained throughout this project will be vital in guiding the future direction of strategic pest management in the region.
- Significant reduction of Pond apple within Reliance Creek puts us on the path to eradication - two surveys undertaken showed none of this aggressive vine was found.
- Observations during the flight over the extents of the Goorganga Wetlands revealed that the amount of pig damage was minimal, and the flooded wetlands looked in the best condition observed over the duration of the aerial control program which commenced in 2007.
- The Rubber vine project was valuable for Sarina Landcare Catchment Management Association (SLCMA) staff, particularly in respect to increasing staff skills in the identification and control options of rubber vine. This will allow SLCMA to provide support to landholders within the Sarina Catchment and provide advice about rubber vine if or when needed.
- Working with Pioneer Catchment Landcare and Mackay Regional Council to improve awareness of Rubber vine and prevent the spread of potential infestations, ensuring a holistic, coordinated approach.
Reef Catchments undertakes a range of waterways projects to monitor and report on the quality of the water draining from the catchments.
Over the past year Reef Catchments has undertaken:
- Catchment loads monitoring
- Marine passive pesticide monitoring
- Environmental monitoring of the Pioneer Valley Irrigation Scheme
- Monitoring the efficacy of constructed wetland treatment trains
Catchment loads monitoring
Funded through Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science
The Catchment Loads monitoring is part of the Paddock to Reef Program to report on the improvement of water quality to the Reef. Reef Catchments undertakes this work on behalf of the Queensland Department of Environment and Science. This includes both ambient monitoring (dry season) and event monitoring (wet season). Within the region six locations are monitored for nutrient, pesticide and sediment pollutants lost from diffuse sources.
Marine passive pesticide monitoring
Funded through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
This year, Reef Catchments undertook nine monitoring trips at three locations to measure pesticides in the marine environment.
The passive pesticide samplers sit in situ in the water column and passively absorb pesticides. The samplers are deployed each month during the wet season and four times during the dry season. The samplers are at the mouth of three river systems: the Proserpine, the Pioneer and at Sandy Creek.
Pioneer Valley Irrigation Scheme
Funded through the Pioneer Valley Water Board
Pioneer Valley Water supplies irrigation water to sugar cane farms in the Pioneer Valley. Irrigation water is drawn from the irrigation scheme that includes Teemburra Dam, Mirani, Marian and Dumbleton weirs. Reef Catchments undertakes environmental monitoring of the irrigation scheme to determine the real and potential environmental impacts of the Irrigation Scheme and make recommendations to mitigate any such impacts.
The objectives of environmental monitoring of the Irrigation Scheme are to determine the effect of irrigation releases on:
- Water quality
- Water quantity (erosion and bank stability)
- Habitat (riparian vegetation)
Three sites are monitored at Cattle Creek, Silver Creek and Bakers Creek.
Funded through the Queensland Government Department of Environment and Science
Reef Catchments has undertaken monitoring of constructed wetlands treatment trains to assess the efficacy of these systems. Treatment trains use natural processes to eliminate runoff pollutants like sediment and nutrients, ensuring cleaner water to the catchment, rivers and ultimately the Great Barrier Reef.
Constructed wetland treatment trains use multiple chambers to treat water as it moves through the individual structures or basins. A biofilm, similar to an algae around the reeds, and the reeds themselves, also use nutrients for their growth, removing excess nutrients from the water. Within the design can be a deep chamber which landholders can utilise to pump extra water to irrigate crops, providing good production benefits. A larger biodiversity wetland area also provides a native wetland ecosystem for fishing and detains water on the property for as long as possible before entering the receiving waters.
Past monitoring indicates these structures improve water quality while also increasing water availability for growers.
Paddock to Reef program
To monitor and report on the improvement of water quality Reef Catchments coordinates the regional delivery of the Paddock to Reef program. This includes providing data on the adoption of best practice within the agricultural landscape.
As part of the Paddock to Reef project Reef Catchments held regional roadshows to bring key people to the region to highlight the project and the progress to date. Another key outcome of the year was the continued monitoring of two regional wetlands to assess the long-term health and condition of the wetlands. Collectively, this data is used to develop annual report cards to report on the improvement in the water quality and health of the Reef.
Moving forward, Reef Catchments has been awarded funding for a range of exciting new projects.
We look forward to working with our community and stakeholders, including on the projects below and on many other diverse programs ahead.
Because the best natural resource management outcomes are achieved collectively - always.
Australian Government Regional Land Partnerships Program
Funded projects / areas include:
- Up-skilling farmers to adapt to changes in climate and market demands to secure the future of sustainable food production in the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region
- Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator - ensuring the effective and efficient delivery of agricultural projects in the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac (MWI) region
- Communications and engagement
- Traditional Owner participation
- Management of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (Islands)
Queensland Government Natural Resources Investment Program
Funded projects / areas include:
- Paddock to Reef program - regional support
- Addressing priority subcatchment water quality targets through grazing management interventions
- Improving the relative ecological condition of freshwater
- Reef Catchments regional coordination and evaluation