Finding a way around barriers to improve land management

EXPLORING New Incentives is looking at ways to address barriers and constraints, financial and other, to the adoption of improved grazing land management practices and landscape remediation options that improve water quality in the Bowen, Broken, Bogie (BBB) catchment.

A series of workshops have been held in the BBB with landholders, scientists, technical experts, and NQ Dry Tropics staff, to scope out and have input on different incentives that could be trialed as part of the LDC project.

The outcome is the Landholders Driving Change: Exploring New Incentives report, commissioned by NQ Dry Tropics, and funded by the Queensland Government, to support the trial and evaluation of new incentive approaches as part of the Landholders Driving Change (LDC) project in the BBB.

The report does not necessarily represent the views or policy of either NQ Dry Tropics or the Queensland Government. It provides six recommendations to support and trial incentives within the LDC project and to support longer-term practice change. Recommendations relate to the current LDC project and timeframes and to the LDC’s ability to influence longer- term outcomes. The LDC project panel is considering which recommendations to adopt.

The six recommendations:

1: Develop a gully calculator.

2: Collect and improve data about land and landholders.

3: Implement a suite of complementary incentives to support graziers in ongoing land management for water quality benefits.

  • LDC support for BBB landholders to understand their current regulatory obligations.
  • LDC to provide ongoing assistance for landholders to access information, extension services and subsidised training.
  • LDC to refine the current grants scheme to reward on-ground change and improved maintenance of benefits over time.
  • LDC to provide social recognition and support innovation with leading landholders.

4: Rigorously evaluate all incentives used within the LDC and advocate for better use and access to evaluation reports.

Recommendations to influence longer-term outcomes

The level of investment and the integrated delivery approach of the LDC project provides a unique opportunity to broker longer-term arrangements to support improved and ongoing incentives to improve water quality from grazing lands.

5: Institutionalise long term approaches to catchment repair.

6: Investigate collaborative approaches to supporting best practice grazing land management.

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Figure 1. Total fine sediment reduction by project type and erosion source. Inset shows the proportion of the total project area for each project type.

These estimates have been calculated using two methods: 

1) The pollutant reduction component of the Alluvium/Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) investment tool for hillslope and streambank erosion management projects; 

2) The Reef Trust Gully Toolbox method for gully erosion management projects. The LDC Water Quality Report 2020 (Waterhouse et al., 2020) highlights that a number of assumptions underlay these calculations, therefore these figures should be treated as the best available estimate of sediment reductions to date.

Preventing sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef

Each wet season sediment is washed into local waterways and out to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). 

Most sediment is very fine, and can stay suspended for a long time and can travel great distances. Valuable topsoil is lost from production, and increased concentrations on the reef can be harmful to seagrasses and corals. 

Landholders in the BBB have completed 69 on-ground water quality practice changes, and it is estimated that these have contributed a fine sediment reduction of 6,154 tonnes per year from reaching the GBR. 

Of this, approximately half of the sediment savings are attributable to grazing land management changes on hillslopes and streambanks, and the other half as a result of gully remediation treatments across a broad range of scales, as shown in the graphs above. 

The table below also highlights the relatively small area of intervention in the gully management projects compared to the large sediment savings that these can achieve - 60 per cent of the sediment savings over only 4 per cent of the project area.

Table 1. Estimated sediment reductions (tonnes) from projects completed in the LDC Project to date.

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*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water

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*The Exploring New Incentives activity area has provided an opportunity for graziers to adopt improved land management practices through a range of activities. For some of these properties, it was the first time they signed contracts for on-ground works.

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The LDC project monitors four gully sites (represented in this table) with gold standard equipment and analysis, carried out by CSIRO.

Results have been compiled in a preliminary report from Bartley et al (2020), with the final report expected to be released by the end of 2020. The preliminary report shows all four sites have indicators of improvements, notably the Strathbogie and Mt Wickham sites.

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Reef regulations - grazing, standard conditions

  1. For land in good or fair condition (more than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), continue using measures to maintain land condition.
  2. For land in poor condition (less than 50 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition.
  3. For land in degraded condition (less than 20 per cent ground cover at 30 September), steps must be taken to improve land condition OR prevent areas from further degrading or expanding.
  4. Keep records of measures taken and also of agricultural chemicals, fertiliser and mill mud or mill ash applied to land.
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