Focus on sediment reduction, practice change

NQ Dry Tropics has secured $5 million to build on and support the Landholders Driving Change project.

This funding has been made available through the Water Quality Improvement program funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF).

The funding supports a sediment reduction program focused on improving water quality in the BBB through catchment restoration and improved land management practices.

The three-year program will deliver:

  • Accelerated grazing support (extension) to encourage adoption of improved land management practice, and;
  • Large-scale and small-scale gully remediation.

Already making progress

The LDC team has hit the ground running. The following activities are currently underway:

Large-scale gully at Havilah

A large-scale gully remediation project has been identified on Havilah Station, near Collinsville. This site was identified as a priority gully cluster in the LDC’s gully prioritisation report. The targeted treatment area consists of two active gully systems.

A concept design is being developed, and when finalised, local contractors will undertake earthworks. The site will be monitored and evaluated using a range of practice, vegetation, runoff and water quality measures.

Sediment savings for Gully Type 1 works (small-scale gullies and erosion features) will be delivered through:

  • As part of the 30 land management agreements, remediation works on 15 small gullies will be completed; and
  • A medium scale landscape rehydration demonstration site targeting sediment savings will be completed.

Sediment savings for Gully Type 3 works (large-scale gully) will be delivered with our partners Alluvium and Verterra, operating as an Unincorporated Joint Venture, through:

  • Completion of the Strathmore gully site (Stage 2), located near the Bowen River Hotel; and
  • Design and implementation of a large-scale gully remediation project at Havilah Station.

Help culture of change to grow

Through extension support, the LDC project will help landholders to adopt improved land management practices to further develop a culture of change for stewardship outcomes.

In March, LDC called for expressions of Interest from landholders to submit a project proposal for a Sediment Loss Prevention Grants to assist with implementing changes to improve their land management. The projects are required to demonstrate that the proposed changes will help reduce sediment entering into local waterways and the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

The application process was competitive with project proposals ranked based on assessment criteria. The proposals are currently being assessed. Successful projects need to be completed within one year.

Sediment savings for land management practice change will be delivered through:

  • At least 30 extension, training education and field events held over the life of the project; and
  • A minimum of 30 land management agreements on property, targeting land management practice change.

Knowledge is power in the paddock

A suite of workshops aimed at improving knowledge and skills of landholders is currently being developed for 2021-2023.  One was in March.

These workshops will allow landholders to gain access to technical and specialist support and information to help them make informed decisions that will increase farm productivity and profit while also improving the landscape.

The first workshop, focused on expanding pasture identification knowledge was held at Mt Pleasant Learning Hub at the end of March. The workshop was aimed at improving knowledge of pasture plants and plant indicators of rangeland condition.

The workshop covered how to identify native pasture species under cattle grazing (herbs, grasses and shrubs); how to take samples and photos for further identification; and the relationship between different soil types and plant species.

Testing knowledge: A wide range of grasses (pictured, right) were put on display for landholders to have a go at identifying as many as they could.



Some of the participants at the Mt Pleasant Pasture Species Identification field day. Pictured from left, are: NQ Dry Tropics’ Linda Anderson, guest speaker ecologist and botanist Dr Greg Calvert, Mt Pleasant landholder Jamie Gordon, NQ Dry Tropics’ Adrienne Hall, Joan Gordon, Mt Pleasant landholder Garlone Moulin, NQ Dry Tropics’ Brad Martin, Sheridan Callcott, Mark O’Connor, Joe O’Reagain, and Liam Tapiolas, of Tondara.

Host and guest speaker Jamie Gordon leads the group on a pasture species identification walk.

Field day hosts Jamie Gordon and Garlone Moulin displayed a wide range of grasses that grow on their property including pictured, Sorghum Plumosum.

Pictured from left, Joan Gordon, Dr Greg Calvert, Garry Reed, Mark O’Connor and (obscured at back) Sharon Yentsch.


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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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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*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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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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