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Erosion control experts meet to manage Great Barrier Reef sediment

Experts in gully remediation, water quality, sediment management and soils met in the Far North last week to share learnings and new knowledge from three years of works under the Australian Government’s Reef Trust Phase II Gully Erosion Control Program.

Cape York Natural Resource Management’s Principal Program Manager - Planning and Implementation, and acting CEO, Will Higham was very pleased with the outcome of the forum which brought together scientists, government representatives, practitioners and contractors. 

“The one-day forum in Cairns gave everyone an opportunity to share outcomes from a variety of gully mitigation methods that are being trialled in Queensland, and set the scene for the field trip’’ Mr Higham said. 

“Improved gully management reduces sediment loss and improves water quality downstream. This is good for our waterholes, rivers and estuaries” he said.

Following an intense day of discussion in Cairns, delegates of the Reef Trust Erosion Control Forum visited Crocodile Station on Cape York where they inspected a variety of gully mitigation structures. 

Gully mitigation is one of the methods being used to improve water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef. Other methods include revegetation and exclusion fencing.

Guests were welcomed to Crocodile Station by the property manager Roy Shephard, where they were able to visit both treated and untreated sites and discuss the outcomes of the different methods in place. 

“The government has invested $780,000 into works at Crocodile Station.  The work there has been undertaken by local contractors, and an 80% reduction in sediment from the remediated sites was recorded after the last wet season” Mr Higham said.

The forum finished on Thursday in Cooktown, where delegates planned for the next stage of the Australian Government’s Reef Trust Phase IV Gully Erosion Control Program – which extends over the next three years.

The Forum was organised by CSIRO’s Dr Scott Wilkinson who is the key technical advisor to the Australian Government for the gully project. 

Dr Wilkinson said gully and stream bank erosion are long term issues that have been inherited by land holders, and that these issues can be too big for land holders to solve on their own.

“Erosion control activities to address these issues is targeted to relatively small degraded areas in the landscape where erosion is most active, but it can deliver measurable improvements in water quality” Dr Wilkinson said.

“The workshop was an opportunity to further build the regional expertise in gully and stream bank erosion control.

“It is great to see the land holders on Crocodile and Normanby Stations, and more than 70 others across the reef catchments, showing their commitment to stabilising stream banks and gullies on their properties” he said. 

Representatives from the Australian Government, CSIRO, Griffith University, and Queensland regional NRM bodies (Reef regions) attended the three days.

The event was organised by the Australian Government and CSIRO, hosted by Cape York Natural Resource Management and funded under the Australian Government’s Reef Trust Phase II Gully Erosion Control Program.