Important to measure the impact LDC is having on water quality

Each year the Landholders Driving Change project measures progress towards improved water quality outcomes and submits a Performance Report to the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Sience as the project funder.

This report contains collated data and analysed results from many sources of monitoring carried out throughout the year. 

First Person Consulting (FPC), based in Melbourne, has been engaged to work with the LDC project to deliver an external independent evaluation of the project across its life between 2018 and 2021. 

A draft of FPC’s third annual independent evaluation report on the LDC project up to 2020 has recently been compiled. Among many documents that were shared, 55 landholder survey responses were analysed and more than 69 project stakeholders responded during the evaluation period. 

Here is an extract from the summary of this report:

Overall, the LDC project has been successful, supported by a range of qualitative and quantitative evidence from diverse perspectives. 

Importantly, the project has continued to strengthen its value and outcomes from 2018 to 2019 and further from 2019 to 2020. 

Among project delivery stakeholders there is a clear sense of the range of ongoing challenges, limitations, opportunities and priorities for the project in the future.

Appropriateness

LDC project activities are generally appropriate for achieving intended outcomes.

The Major Integrated Model (MIP) itself is perceived as an appropriate approach for achieving intended longer-term water quality and stewardship outcomes through the LDC project, with a range of opportunities and future priorities identified for the model going forward.

Impact

There is evidence that LDC has made progress towards achieving all intended MIP outcomes areas, in relation to: strengthening knowledge, attitudes, skills and aspirations, building a culture of stewardship, overcoming external barriers and progressing enablers, improved land management that delivers water quality outcomes, and collaborative grass-roots design and delivery.

Effectiveness, efficiency and project management

Overall, the LDC project has been managed generally effectively and efficiently to date.

Despite some delays, budget underspends and a range of challenges (including multiple changes in project management) the project has been well-managed and adaptive to emerging needs and contexts.

Transferability

Throughout the LDC project, a range of lessons have been learned and have continued to inform ongoing project development and implementation.

Identifying, communicating and applying lessons learned through the LDC project has continually been recognised by stakeholders as a valuable opportunity and an important priority for the future.

Legacy

It is likely that LDC will continue to achieve outcomes and provide value beyond the life of the project.

However, this is strongly linked to future funding opportunities and continuing to invest in the outcomes and relationships built through the LDC project to date.”

LDC model is an appropriate one

Surveys show 90 per cent of stakeholders strongly agree the MIP model has been an appropriate approach for achieving intended longer-term water quality and stewardship outcomes (Figure 1, right). 

A series of recommendations accompany the draft evaluation report, and the LDC project team will work towards addressing these recommendations as the project continues and adapts.

Reporting

Each year the LDC project also reports back to the BBB community to provide project updates.

It does this through a bus tour to showcase on-grounds works, and a dinner event.

Here are the 2020 updates that have been made available to the BBB community and project stakeholders.

The second publication of The Dirt was also produced this year.

Paddock to Reef social monitoring report

The Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program (Paddock to Reef program) assesses the adoption of improved agricultural management practices through a survey that is completed before and after a land management practice change.

The survey includes questions that are used to assess key social factors that can influence agricultural industries to adopt particular management practices.

Completing the social questions is voluntary and responses to the survey are de-identified to prevent landholders being identified.

Landholders are asked to nominate a land management practice aligned to the commodity-specific Reef Water Quality Risk Frameworks and answer the questions in relation to that specific practice.
At the time that the Department of Environment and Science social monitoring through Paddock to Reef program started, the LDC project was already in progress, therefore these social dimensions questions were asked at a mid-point during the LDC project (2019) and after the LDC project (2020).

The LDC project incorporated the survey questions to survey both grazing and non-grazing landholders. Given the early adoption of the survey, the survey questions and protocol have been refined and changed between the mid-point and the surveys delivered after the LDC program.

These changes have limited the ability to draw direct comparisons between the mid-point and after the LDC program, however, changes to the survey allow for comparison between the LDC program and industry-wide responses.

The collected data, summarised in this Fact Sheet, can be used to provide project managers and extension staff with a clearer understanding of project participants’ attitudes and motivations to being involved in government funded projects, as well as barriers to practice uptake/change.

Here is a summary of the Key Evaluation Questions (KEQs) that the LDC project is required to report against:

 KEQ #1

To what extent has LDC contributed to improved pollutant loads?

Load reduction of 6,154 tonnes of fine sediment each year from 69 on-ground water quality practice change projects on 45 properties.

 KEQ #2

To what extent has LDC contributed to an improved culture of stewardship?

68 per cent of stakeholders say they have seen a moderate or substantial improvement in the culture of stewardship.

 KEQ #3

To what extent have graziers adopted improved land management practices?

40,964 ha of on-ground practice change completed with grazing properties.

 KEQ #4

To what extent have major gullies been remediated?

22 completed gully remediation sites. These works span 1600 ha of gully treatment and catchment repair. 4400 linear metres of gullies eroding from  35 gully heads has been treated.

 KEQ #5

To what extent has LDC influenced barriers and opportunities to change?

In Year One, 50 per cent of landholders surveyed reported they needed more knowledge before implementing practice change. This year, this reduced to less than 10 per cent.

 KEQ #6

To what extent has LDC influenced graziers’ knowledge, attitudes, skills and aspirations?

86 per cent of project stakeholders say they have seen a moderate or substantial improvement in knowledge, attitude, skills and aspirations.

 KEQ #7

To what extent has LDC engaged BBB graziers?

A combined area of 1,031,815 ha is engaged with the LDC, representing 91 per cent of large grazing properties. A total of  102 properties are engaged with the project.

 KEQ #8

What has been the value of the MIP approach?

LDC has 63 delivery partners and collaborators, using services and products from  318 businesses. $2m of direct local employment and 88 per cent of investment was awarded in local contracts.

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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

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 #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 #5

KEQ #6

KEQ #7
KEQ #8

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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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