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Taking to the Skies to Help Rivers Recover

22-year-old Cape York NRM Graduate Extension Trainee Harry James took things to a whole new level when he spent a week flying around the Cape in a Robinson R44 helicopter in October.

Harry, who is learning about all things sustainable agriculture and water quality, took to the sky with engineer Adam Neilly to assess stream bank erosion caused by February’s monsoon trough.

‘Adam and I surveyed several river systems from the air, searching for erosion damage caused by the monsoon trough earlier this year,’ Harry explained.

‘Our role is to assess erosion sites and recommend them for recovery works through the Riparian Recovery Program, jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments under the Disaster Recovery
Funding Arrangements.’

The aim of the funding is to stabilise stream banks in a bid to improve local water quality, reduce the amount of sediment flowing out to sea and protect Cape York’s waterways from future flood events.

‘I was very excited to be part of this project—it’s a whole new experience viewing the landscape from a helicopter,’ Harry added.

‘Many of the river systems we surveyed looked to be in quite a good condition. The key factor is maintaining good vegetation cover, especially adjacent to the banks, because this holds the soil in place.

‘There were several major erosion sites that we identified which will hopefully be funded for recovery works. Fixing these sites would significantly reduce the amount of sediment reaching the sea.'

Adam and Harry will submit a report by the end of November recommending sites for recovery, with funding to be allocated in time for on-ground work to commence in next year’s dry season. The project will finish up in June 2021.

Eligible programs are jointly funded by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments through the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA)

The Agricultural Extension Work Placement Program is facilitated by the Queensland Farmer's Federation, under the support of the Queensland Government Reef Water Quality Program, with the aim of enhancing extension skills as graduates assist in delivering agricultural and natural resource management projects with landholders in Great Barrier Reef catchments. 

Further information about the Agricultural Extension Work Placement program can be found on the QFF website.