Reef Aid

Remediating eroding gullies in the Fitzroy catchment

Greening Australia worked with Woorabinda Pastoral Company to improve water quality flowing to the Great Barrier Reef, reducing the amount of sediment run-off from eroding gullies across two of their properties in the Fitzroy catchment of Central Queensland.

The township of Woorabinda is located two hours’ drive west of Rockhampton in Central Queensland, on the traditional lands of the Wadja Wadja and Ghungalu people. There are 52 clans and numerous language groups represented in the Woorabinda community. The town is surrounded by a diverse landscape consisting of Brigalow Belt Forest, habitat for a wide range of native fauna and flora, and two major river systems – the Dawson and McKenzie – which flow into the Fitzroy River.

The Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council works in conjunction with the Woorabinda Pastoral Company to operate seven properties in the area, which are grazing and cropping enterprises. As part of Reef Aid, we worked alongside Woorabinda Pastoral Company to restore eroding gullies, enhance grazing management practices and improve water quality across two of the properties – Foley Vale Station near Duaringa, and Woorabinda Station near the Woorabinda township.

The Challenge

Next to climate change, poor water quality is the greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef. Fine sediment flowing from eroding land onto the Great Barrier Reef smothers coral and fishes, creates algal blooms and weakens the Reef’s ability to recover from the impacts of climate change, like coral bleaching.

The Fitzroy catchment is estimated to contribute 23% of the total sediment that makes its way to the waters of the Great Barrier Reef, so it is a high priority area for restoration. Research indicates that the gullies we are targeting through this project have exported an average 956 tonnes of sediment per hectare since 1945. That’s a staggering 550,000 tonnes of sediment over that period with 65% capable of being suspended and delivered to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Solution

Reducing the amount of sediment flowing to the Reef is key to ensuring its long-term health and survival. Thanks to almost $1 million from the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program and $250,000 in matched funding from other contributors, Greening Australia and Woorabinda Pastoral Company implemented gully restoration techniques trialled and proven in other Reef catchments.

Science-led, practical methods were used to ensure lasting reductions in the amount of sediment flowing to the Reef from the Dawson and McKenzie river systems, and to help the land recover and thrive. Trials demonstrated that the gully restoration techniques used reduced sediment run-off by more than 80% in less than three years. Restoring these landscapes also supports improved habitat for Fitzroy River turtles, birds, and local endemic plants.

Greening Australia, Woorabinda Pastoral Company and Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council also delivered significant employment opportunities and enhanced the sustainability of the project by involving the local community in restoration works. For example, Woorabinda community rangers co-delivered trial treatments on site with our staff. Project collaborations spanned from stock management training and fencing work to co-designing a vegetation and weed management plan. Collectively, these actions are restoring the overall resilience of the land and improve water quality flowing to the Great Barrier Reef.

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Project outcomes

The project team worked with the Woorabinda Pastoral Company implementing the reshaping and revegetation of gully features, installation of porous check dams, fencing, watering points and grazing management education and practice changes for long-term cost-effective water quality improvement for the Great Barrier Reef.

The Woorabinda Pastoral Company worked with the project team to implement improved management practices for Foleyvale and Woorabinda, including the reduction of stock rates, assessment and planning based on soil and rainfall conditions. Woorabinda Pastoral Company continues to adaptively refine these management practices for each property with considerations around soil, rainfall, vegetation, livestock, and staff for their best practice management. This project provided skill development, education, and continued support throughout this process.

The completed gully treatment works have been monitored on the two properties, gathering data to use and inform the restoration of other areas in the future.

Assessment of erosion, land condition, and land management practice change were completed using the Reef Trust Phase IV Gully and Stream Bank Toolbox and the Paddock to Reef Program (Wilkinson et al, 2019; Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program).

Relationships like this one with Woorabinda Pastoral Company and Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council are critical to the success of Reef Aid, with commitment from landholders who steward the land helping ensure the health of the Reef.
The Fitzroy River Water Quality Project was a collaborative project jointly funded through Greening Australia’s Reef Aid program and the Queensland Government’s Reef Water Quality Program.