Reef Aid

Mackenzie Water Quality Program

We worked with landholders in the Mackenzie and Dawson river catchments to stop sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Meaningful grazing practice changes can keep soil and nutrients on farm, improve land condition and help protect the health of the Reef.

This project worked with the landholders of properties close to the Woorabinda and Duaringa townships of Central Queensland, on the traditional lands of the Barada Kabalbara Yetimarala People, Gaangalu Nation people and Wadja people.

Through partnership and integration of traditional knowledge and rotational grazing, we have achieved lasting water quality improvements for the Mackenzie River catchment and beyond to the Great Barrier Reef. While these properties in the Mackenzie and Dawson River catchments may seem a long way from the Reef, by adjusting grazing practices on land, we can have an impact on Reef water quality by retaining nutrients and sediment and improving land condition. 

Over four years, Greening Australia worked together with the Woorabinda Pastoral Company to improve farming practices by installing fencing, watering troughs, and undertaking training courses for a more regenerative approach. The results are wonderful, with improved land condition and a prevention of 1,164 tonnes of sediment reaching the Reef each year.

“The success of the project was seen through the improved land management practices and conditions, but more importantly in the confidence and education of those who have always worked on and with the land – the Traditional Owners. Sharing knowledge and education with the Traditional Owners of this country has been both humbling and enlightening. Traditional landscape understanding has been paired with modern sustainable grazing to really see the land, people and cattle thrive through this project.”
Xanthe Willis, Greening Australia

The Challenge

Sediment runoff from far inland can travel through river systems all the way to the Great Barrier Reef, causing problems by smothering coral and reducing clarity of the water, which impacts on the growth and health of the seagrass and coral ecosystems.

Sediment also transports nutrients and chemical contaminants onto the Reef system, encouraging algae growth and Crown of Thorns starfish infestations.

The way grazing is managed on farms inland, like those in the Mackenzie and Dawson river catchments, can change how much sediment and nutrient runs off into river systems and reaches the Reef.

Grazing land can have high sediment runoff when it has poor vegetation cover, soils prone to erosion, or impacts from cattle movement. Supporting graziers with solutions tailored to their land, vegetation and farming practices can help improve and maintain vegetation cover and resilience.

The Solution

By working with landholders who are looking to care for the Reef through their farming operations, we can keep sediment and nutrients on farm and create healthier, more economical grazing lands.

We are working with partners to build the foundations of sustainable, productive, and healing farm management with landholders. We have developed a set of goals for farming outcomes across a range of different metrics that are underpinned by expert regional assessments and align with landholder interests.

Greening Australia, the landholders, and the local Woorabinda Rangers worked together to co-develop effective farm management techniques that re-establish the traditional connection and management of Country alongside modern, sustainable farming techniques.

We worked with landholders on: implementing land condition monitoring to inform future stocking and cropping decisions; adjusting cattle inventory to suit seasonal land capacity; rotational grazing practices; ongoing protection of vegetation cover; and cultural training.

Together these aspects are assisting with healing Country where it is needed and ensuring that ongoing farming practices protect land and sea Country long term while also remaining profitable. 

Further reading


The Mackenzie Water Quality Program is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, delivered in collaboration with Woorabinda Pastoral Company, Woorabinda Shire Council, and Resource Consulting Services.

The Mackenzie Water Quality Program is part of the Fitzroy Water Quality Program regional initiative.

For more information about this project or any of our programs, please send us an online query.