Mt Pleasant grazier Garlone Moulin (second, from left) with (from left) JCU researchers Rishab Pillai, Natasha Ryan and Eric Nordberg.
Mt Pleasant grazier Jamie Gordon explains what he hopes the Learning Hub will achieve.

Learning hub is up and running

THE Mt Pleasant Demonstration and Learning Hub is up and running.  Earthworks are complete, and the first field walk, which was open to the public, was a success.

Just the facts:

  • The aim of this project is to demonstrate erosion control measures which slow, spread and infiltrate surface water flow. In so doing, the site will retain more moisture, and capture and cycle nutrients more efficiently.
  • Coupled with the existing management strategy of time-controlled grazing, the demonstration will, in the long term, rebuild landscape function and resilience.
  • The Mulloon Institute was commissioned to prepare designs of earthworks.
  • Construction was undertaken by a local business – Colls Earthmoving .
  • Rock was supplied by a local business – Searles at Collinsville.
  • Construction was completed in 5½ days.
  • Mt Pleasant is 56km south-west of Bowen, 30km north of Collinsville.
  • The waterway flowing through the project site is an unnamed first order stream with a catchment of about 250ha. It becomes second order, out of the project site, before flowing into the Bogie River.
  • The site is being monitored and evaluated by CSIRO.
  • JCU is conducting a biodiversity baseline survey.
  •  The site has been made available to university and high school students, scientists, industry representatives, landholders and the community to observe and study the project and results.
  • NQ Dry Tropics and the LDC team is very appreciative to the owners of Mt Pleasant for agreeing to undertake this research project.

The demonstration site and learning hub (locally known as ‘The Hub’) has three components:

  1. A landscape rehydration project.
  2. Biodiversity surveys to track changes over time.
  3. A knowledge sharing hub for multiple stakeholders.

The aim of the project is to implement, investigate and ground truth techniques and tools that support the restoration of landscape function for efficient farming practices.

These will be monitoried and evaluated, and this knowledge will be shared with grazing communities.

Mt Pleasant offers an additional dimension by being a landholder driven community learning hub.

The project will provide the infrastructure and learning resources to allow local and regional landholders, school and tertiary students, scientific and university institutions, and other interested organisations to observe, study and learn in a production landscape. 

Roxanne Morgan DAF, Graham Armstrong Mackay Landcare, Mt Pleasant graziers Jamie Gordon and Garlone Moulin with Jim Fletcher, DAF.

First event a success

MT Pleasant Station graziers Jamie Gordon and Garlone Moulin hosted the first field day at the new Learning Hub last month.

An enthusiastic crowd of almost 30 landholders, academics, land managers and stakeholders in the Landholders Driving Change project attended the day where Ms Moulin delivered a brief outline of the history of the property and the changes made by the current management.

A team of researchers from James Cook University spoke about the early discoveries they had made working with the biodiversity on the property, including touching on some species many in the crowd would never have seen before.

The hub, which includes working examples of land rehydration techniques engineered by the Mulloon Institute is designed to educate people about building healthy soil, biodiversity, the importance of microbial activity in the soil and grazing management practices to enhance those aspects of the environment.

The Learning Hub is an initiative of the Landholders Driving change project.

The Mt Pleasant Learning Hub features Mulloon Institute landscape rehydration techniques to reinstate the hydrological function of the landscape. Works include banks and v-notch log and rock sills in the gully.

Landscape rehydration project

THE design of this project is based on the Peter Andrews’ natural sequence farming principles. It was designed and supervised by Mulloon Institute members who are experienced in the implementation of Peter Andrews’ ideas.

The works consist of a series of designed structures placed at critical points in the project gully to encourage water back out onto the small floodplain areas where it used to flow before the system “broke down”.

Historical aerial photos show that the incised gully formed during the last 50-60 years, probably due to less than ideal grazing management, especially a lack of ground cover. The incision in the main channel (perhaps a metre lower than the 1950s landscape) means that water drains or moves quickly out of the landscape. 

The structures are “leaky”, that is, not for storing water and are aimed at filling the gully catchment so that the landscape re-hydrates. Four ‘log sill’ structures were constructed with substantial logs checked into trenches in the banks (about 2-3m) with a “V notch” facing upstream. 

The logs were a mix of ironbark, stringybark and bloodwood, and were secured to railway sleepers driven into the ground, with coir matting to stop undercutting, refilled either side of the log wall with sand and soil, and a rock apron on the downstream side, then re-seeded. 

The idea is to get them covered in vegetation as soon as possible. The largest structure is an earth bank which is aimed at slowing water, reducing the energy of the flow and redirecting high flows over a previous flood out area via a 30m natural, level sill. 

The earth structure also has a 100mm pipe to allow captured water to flow through the wall. The structures themselves are probably less important than exactly where and what height they are placed and how they interact with each other.

Bowen State School teachers Shannon Sinnott (left) and Susan Marshall admire a tiny planigale, one of the diverse species of mammals found on Mt Pleasant Station.
Grant Holmes, from Pink Lilly Station, checks out a skink, one of several different species sighted on Mt Pleasant Station.

Biodiversity survey

MT Pleasant Learning Hub has implemented a biodiversity monitoring and education component  in collaboration with James Cook University.

It has three aims:

  • to explore the line of enquiry – Biodiversity, productivity, profitability – can they be mutually beneficial?; 
  • to educate landholders about monitoring techniques they can replicate independently in the future; and
  • to find ways to ensure this knowledge and monitoring skills is transferrable to the wider community.

Survey data will demonstrate the compatibility of grazing management with maintenance of biodiversity values.

The surveys will also provide benchmarks to see if the designed works can improve water quality and increase biodiversity values at the project site.

Community Learning Hub facilities

THE project will provide an outdoor learning facility, with simple catering facilities included, and a portable unisex toilet, to allow local and regional landholders, school and tertiary students, scientific and university institutions, and other interested organisations to observe, study and learn in a production landscape. 

Interpretive materials to enhance educational opportunties will be developed.