Project Description

Background

BMRG is leading practical, on-the-ground action to improve the water quality flowing from the Burnett River Catchment to the Great Barrier Reef as part of a $6.1 million investment by the Morrison Government. This funding builds on a $3.857 million Reef Trust investment announced in 2020, for coastal habitat restoration and threatened species protection in the Burnett Mary region.

The Burnett Water Quality Consortium includes Central Queensland University’s Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre (CMERC) and Gidarjil Development Corporation, blending the latest ecological science with the knowledge and experience of Traditional Owners.
Approximately twenty percent of the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan sediment reduction target for the Burnett Catchment will be achieved through this project over 3 years.

Issue

More than 16,000 tonnes of fine sediment from five known priority sites in the Burnett River Catchment area is adversely impacting water quality, coastal habitats and the universal value of the Great Barrier Reef.

Sediment affects fragile marine ecosystems in a number of ways. For example, it smothers seagrasses — a food source for turtles and dugongs and a home for larval fish — reducing its ability to remove carbon dioxide. Sediment also reduces light availability for seagrasses and coral, increasing coral stress causing coral bleaching.

High volumes of sediment are caused by poor land and riparian management (for example grazing animals destabilising river bank vegetation), feral animals (primarily pigs) spreading weeds and disease, and infestations of weeds of national significance destabilising streambanks.

Solution

BRMG will work to improve the land management and water quality of the Burnett Catchment, thereby reducing the sediment flowing from the area to the Great Barrier Reef. To achieve this, a number of measures must be enacted:

  • identify and prioritise erosion sites contributing the highest volume of fine sediment
  • restore damaged sites (through stabilising engineering, restorative plantings, riparian fencing and off-stream watering points)
  • promotion of, and education on, sustainable cropping and grazing land management
  • weed management and native revegetation
  • feral animal control.

Project Scope

Collaboration between BMRG and our local partners will see this project involving:

  • the engagement of stakeholders through training and education workshops
  • large-scale restoration of riparian areas to reduce streambank erosion
  • Traditional Owners revegetating, fending, removing weeds and feral animals
  • water quality monitoring by CQUniversity before and after works, in wet and dry seasons
  • the installation of telemetry equipment to record soil moisture and temperature
  • improved landholder management of cattle (through fending and off-stream watering points, adoption of weed and pest management plans).

Work completed to date

Since the project commenced in July 2021, a number of works have already been undertaken:

  • five priority sites for restoration were identified through Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) drone surveys and stakeholder consultation
  • Assessing present fauna specifies and diversity via fauna surveys
  • Water quality monitoring sensors have been installed
  • Earthworks have been completed at several sites, including the installation of erosion matting and rock chutes
  • Some sites have been fenced to prevent cattle access to stabilised streambank.

Future works

Work continues to reduce the impacts of land management and water quality flowing from the Burnett Catchment. Future projects BMRG will head up include:

  • Native and site-specific revegetation from seed (samples taken from the site prior to earthworks, and grown in Gidarjil’s native nursery).
  • Finalisation of earthworks.
  • Installation of a weather station.
  • Feral pig control.
  • Continued water quality sampling by CQUniversity to measure the project impacts and plan future projects