Franco Arri’s riverside cane farm at the end of Ross Road near Deeral, Far North Queensland, is in a sweet spot on Wanyurr-Madjandji country – just upstream of where the Russell and Mulgrave rivers unite and flow out to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.
The boundary of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area is just 3 kms to the east, while the Russell River National Park and wetland complex (on the Directory of Important Wetlands Australia) is on the southern side.
Adjacent to the property are areas of remnant rainforest vegetation and beautiful mangroves supporting a diverse range of species – including being essential habitat for the protected Saltwater Crocodile and the endangered Southern Cassowary.
A fan of ultralight flying, Franco had been watching the progress of our constructed wetland at Fig Tree Lagoon from a bird’s eye view, and when approached by Mulgrave Landcare about some restoration work on his property, he agreed.
There are a few different challenges we are working together with Franco to address – Greening Australia and Mulgrave Landcare saw the potential given the property’s location to support biodiversity and improve water quality for the Great Barrier Reef by reducing sediment and nutrient run-off.
Franco also showed us a large, 5.15 ha area covered by low-lying impenetrable weeds that could be revegetated by assisted natural regeneration, and he has a further 58 ha available for restoration.
A unique challenge is presented by working in low lying wetland areas, which are inaccessible at certain times over the wet season, and controlling weeds that thrive in the Wet Tropics conditions. Of particular concern are Guinea Grass, Wild Raspberry and a Weed of National Significance, Pond Apple, which are currently dominating the cane drains.
Greening Australia, Mulgrave Landcare and Franco, the landholder, are working together to plant a 3.8 ha strip of 10,000 trees alongside the river.
The restoration here will help achieve a few different goals:
We are also assisting natural regeneration in an additional 5.15 ha just north west of the revegetation plantings. A few scattered native plants are persisting in this area, and it is surrounded by native riparian area and mangrove complex, so we are hopeful that – given breathing space – the remnant forest will regenerate itself.
We are trialling effective methods to both preserve the embattled native plants and control the weeds. For example, by using drones to map and analyse the weeds, we can ensure our weed clearing and treatment is as precise as possible. Regeneration methods will include supplementary native seeding, key-line plantings and various control methods.
10,000 trees have been planted over 3.8 hectares from July to December 2020, in partnership with Mulgrave Landcare and Catchment Group, by engaging 300 volunteers in eight community tree planting events since July. The planted corridor follows the riverbank and will act as a natural buffer as well as providing habitat. It can be hard to imagine 10,000 trees and 3.8 hectares, so please enjoy this video Franco took of the newly planted corridor with his drifter.
Greening Australia and Mulgrave Landcare are applying for funding to restore the whole 58 ha area that the landholder Franco has now offered, and seeking to undertake further works in partnership with Wanyurr-Majay Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC.
There is potential to engage neighbouring landholders as the project proceeds.
This project is funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and Sukin, and delivered as part of Greening Australia’s Reef Aid program in partnership with Mulgrave Landcare and Catchment Group, landholder Franco Arri and Wanyurr-Majay Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC.
If you would like more information, please feel free to send us an online query.
Lisa obtained her Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management in Ballarat, Victoria. Thirty years ago she moved to Cairns, where she takes full advantage of what living between two World Heritage Areas has to offer. Lisa has been actively involved in on-ground restoration work and natural resource management projects as the Coordinator of local Landcare groups for 18 years, and has been working as Greening Australia’s Project Officer in Far North Queensland since 2018.