Strathalbyn weed control | Landholders Driving Change

A clear path ahead: Navigating Queensland’s vegetation management framework

LANDHOLDERS and Queensland Government department representatives have come up with a solution to improve land condition (weed control) on a property that meets reef protection regulations at the same time as meeting vegetation management obligations.

Navigating the laws and government policy on vegetation management can be difficult. 

So when landholder Bristow Hughes, of Strathalbyn Station, proposed a trial to eradicate high density invasive, non-native plants and declared pest plants on a 400ha site that borders with a river and a neighbouring grazing property, he called in the experts.

Representatives from the Office of the Great Barrier Reef (OGBR), Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy (DNRME), and NQ Dry Tropics met with Mr Hughes on his property, to better understand the problem and look for solutions.

The gathering at Strathalbyn Station to help the landholder navigate a path through vegetation management regulations.

Mr Hughes’ goal is to improve degraded land condition in line with reef protection regulations’ grazing minimum standards.

If not sufficiently treated, the weed infestation will continue to worsen having implications for sediment runoff and productivity, as well as spreading to other properties downstream.

DNRME representatives were able to help Mr Hughes work out how the Accepted Development Vegetation Clearing Code: Managing Weeds applied to his property. The code refers to the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (Qld) and the Planning Act 2016 (Qld), which jointly regulate the clearing of native vegetation in Queensland.

What’s allowable in terms of the practical application of the code satisfies Mr Hughes’ requirements for removing weeds, primarily belly ache bush in remnant vegetation.

The solution involved clearing a 10m firebreak along the boundary, and five metre access breaks every 30m through the affected area.

Mr Hughes will also develop a grazing plan to manage the area.

The meeting was a result of a proposal Mr Hughes submitted to the OGBR through LDC’s Policy Engagement Activity Area. The aim of this activity area is to facilitate better landholder engagement in relevant policy development, review and implementation in the BBB catchment. 

Read about the Strathalbyn proposal and Policy Engagement Activity area here.

Here is a story about a policy roundtable that LDC held in 2019.

Discussing the Strathalbyn proposal to manage weeds on-site at the property are from left, Laura Sellen, DNRME, Michelle Sangricoli, DNRME, Rae Schlecht, OGBR, and with back to the camera, Dyan Hughes, of Strathalbyn Station.

Strathalbyn Station landholders Bristow and Ureisha Hughes with son Archie.

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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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