Landholders Driving Change… a Major Integrated Project in action

EROSION is a big issue in the Dry Tropics of North Queensland. It causes valuable topsoil primarily from grazing lands to wash downstream, carrying fine sediment particles that reduce the amount of light needed by coral reefs and seagrass to grow and thrive.

NQ Dry Tropics’ Landholders Driving Change project aims to tackle erosion and improve land management, productivity and reef water quality in the Burdekin region – and graziers have been helping to design solutions.

This project is about keeping soil on the land, to help maximise pasture cover and to keep our waterways clean.

It is delivering a flexible program of innovative and tried and tested activities designed by landholders and tailored to their needs, concentrated on the high-priority Bowen, Broken, Bogie (BBB) catchment near Bowen and Collinsville.

The BBB produces almost a quarter of the total fine sediment load that ends up on the Great Barrier Reef.

The Bowen, Broken and Bogie catchment

These web pages, our online publication – The DIRT- and our monthly bulletin – The Grit – will keep you informed about the progress of the three-year project.

Landholders Driving Change combines graziers’ knowledge with the latest scientific research.

It is trialling and implementing solutions designed to remove the social, financial and technical barriers to practice change.

Some of these solutions, if successful, could be transferred to other catchments.


Involving graziers from the start

STRONG and ongoing local participation is the cornerstone of Landholders Driving Change. In order for the project to be truly grazier-focused, it was critical to involve them from the very start of the design process.

To kick things off, graziers representing more than 50 per cent of properties in the BBB attended a series of workshops held during February 2017 in Bowen, Inkerman, Collinsville, and Bowen River. They had the opportunity to propose ideas on which the project should focus.

Their suggestions included gully remediation; improving pasture cover; education and training; incentives to support better practices; and forging closer links between landholders and policy makers.

They also stressed that gully erosion isn’t just a grazier issue, and other land users should be involved. All the ideas raised were discussed, documented and analysed after the sessions.

Once the project team had collated the landholders’ ideas, it was time to develop and prioritise them into an action plan.

During the following months, a group of local graziers, scientists, government officers and technical specialists met regularly to design activities that would:

  • reflect the advice of the local community;
  • reduce levels of sediment runoff to the reef; and
  • help achieve enduring sustainable and productive land management in the BBB.
These activities fall within five main areas:
    Delivering flexible and tailored services
    Demonstrating cost-effective remediation solutions
    Achieving a whole-of-catchment effort
    Scoping and trialling incentives and institutional arrangements
    Linking landholders with policy makers
Graziers and scientists worked together to design an action plan

But involving graziers in project design is just one way Landholders Driving Change is doing things differently.

For the first time, a project at this scale aims to work with a whole community to achieve long-term economic, social and environmental benefits.

Never before has a project taken such a wide-ranging approach to improving land and water quality at a catchment scale.

Putting these actions into practice over the next three years will teach valuable lessons about the suitability and effectiveness of this method.

This knowledge will help to guide future investment in the BBB catchment and other priority Great Barrier Reef catchments.

And because erosion isn’t just an issue for graziers, this groundbreaking project aims to involve all land managers in the BBB, including mines, utilities and government departments.
It works alongside and supports other local projects. Getting the whole community working together and learning from each other will help achieve better long-term land management in the BBB.
Landholders Driving Change is one of two Major Integrated Projects (MIPs) recommended by the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce. The other MIP aims to reduce nutrient and pesticide runoff from cane and banana farms in the Wet Tropics region.
The Queensland Government has committed a total of $33 million to fund the MIPs, which aim to concentrate efforts at a catchment scale, and evaluate their effectiveness.


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.
KEQ #8

KEQ #7
KEQ #6

KEQ #5

KEQ #4

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.

KEQ #3

*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.

KEQ #1

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.

KEQ #2

*GLMWW = Grazing Land Management Wire and Water