Together, the Burnett and Mary Catchments represent two of the highest contributors of fine sediment of the 35 catchments that drain to the Great Barrier Reef.  Most of this sediment comes from streambank erosion and grazing areas. The catchments also contribute significant loads of dissolved inorganic nitrogen mostly from sugarcane, grazing and sewage treatment plants.

Major flooding in the Mary River and Burnett River catchments in 2011 and 2013 also caused substantial erosion of the bed, banks and floodplain of both rivers, resulting in significant sediment loss and damage to agricultural land and public infrastructure.

Under the Reef 2050 Water Quality Improvement Plan, water quality targets have been set for each catchment that drains to the Great Barrier Reef. The Burnett and Mary catchments have been attributed a 20% reduction target for fine sediments and a 70% reduction target for dissolved inorganic nitrogen levels. The challenge now rests with the region to meet these targets and ultimately ensure that the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef from our major catchments is of a greatly improved standard.

Under the Queensland Government’s Natural Resource Investment Program, the Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG) has commissioned Alluvium Consulting to develop a plan for restoring the Mary River and the Burnett River downstream of Paradise Dam.

BMRG project manager Nick Maclean said the aim of the plan is to set out clear management objectives for sediment reduction and asset protection along each river. “The plan is a ‘first of its kind’ for the Burnett River”, said Nick, “and it will identify key priorities for on-ground actions, including improved farming practices,  increased ground cover, management of grazing pressure and restoration of riparian vegetation.”

“Within the Mary Catchment, the plan builds on previous investment in water quality outcomes such as Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements and other complimentary projects undertaken by the Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee and SEQ Water”, he said.

The plan will also inform future investment in streambank rehabilitation and catchment resilience, by identifying and prioritising those sections of the river reaches that require greater focus.

More information on the plan and other projects being undertaken by BMRG, see our projects portfolio www.bmrg.org.au/projects/

(This article was featured in the Rural Weekly)