Drain transformed on Bastow Farm to boost production and biodiversity

Landholders in WA’s Peel-Harvey region recently had a chance to see a practical, nature-based solution in action for flood-prone drains, creeklines and paddocks.

Greening Australia and The Forever Project hosted two field days at Bastow Farm to showcase how a linear drain could be transformed into a meandering waterway on the property, boosting productivity and biodiversity values and minimising problems associated with flooding.

Ruth Cripps, Land and Restoration Lead at Greening Australia, said: “We’ve been reaching out to landholders along the Harvey River as part of our Helping the Harvey project, looking for ways to further improve water quality, climate resilience and habitat values along the river corridor.

“The Bastows saw that taking their linear drain back to a more natural condition would deliver a host of benefits – keep more nutrients and moisture on the property, improve water quality, support species they value such as marron, and even help manage fire risk.

“We’re very grateful for their generosity in opening their gates so other local landholders could see the project and be inspired to try nature-based solutions for their properties too.”

The linear drain transformed (L-R): March 2022 (pre-works), April 2022 (during works), July 2022 (following works). Photos credit Grant Pronk.

The property was a bare block in 2006 when the Bastows arrived, with a long stretch along the Harvey Drain.

Landholder Cathy Bastow said: “Our family has made lots of memories there, walking the dogs and catching tadpoles. It’s been the dream for the boys in our family to have a dam on the property with lots of marron. Since there’s a big layer of coffee rock on the farm, we had to look at a solution that was easier to obtain and better for the environment. Turns out we did something a little different.”

“The old idea was ‘get the water off the property’, now we’re reversing that back, saying let the property become a sponge and slow the flow … all the life is here, the marron and gilgies are here underground, they just need the chance to flourish.”

A collaborative project team worked with the Bastows to redesign the shallow linear drainage channel on the property to slow the water flow and keep more moisture on farm. This also filters the water before it reaches the Harvey River, helping protect aquatic species found there, like marron.

Bastow waterway project partners (L-R): Ruth Cripps (Greening Australia), Chris Ferreira (The Forever Project), ‘water whisperer’ Peter Hicks, Grant Pronk (GP Forestry). Photo credit Jesse Collins.

Partners involved in implementing the Bastow Farm waterway project included Greening Australia, The Forever Project, GP Forestry, Wargl, Harvey Aboriginal Corporation, Peel Harvey Biosecurity Group and Peel-Harvey Catchment Council.

“This was a great chance to showcase the process of reshaping and reviving a tired old ‘ag drain’. Expert ‘water whisperer’ Peter Hicks’ design slowed the water down on site, and that’s when the magic really happens,” said Chris Ferreira from The Forever Project.

“The water soaks into the subsoil to bolster supplies for the long hot dry summer, which can stretch production. And reshaping gave us a chance to plant and fortify the banks, turning the space in to a watery wildlife corridor.”

The works were supported by Harvey River Restoration Taskforce, Shire of Harvey, Shire of Waroona and Alcoa Foundation, and are part of a broader initiative to improve water quality and habitat along the heavily modified Harvey River.

Interested in a project like this for your property? Read more about Greening Australia’s nature-based solutions or register your interest in a discussion about your land via our landholder registration portal.