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Clayhole Gully renewal on track

It was hot, sweaty work, but timing was everything, as the Cape York NRM team and Normanby Station Rangers leveled out hay mulch and added a little more seed to the Clayhole gully erosion site on Normanby Station last week. 

A lull in wet weather and a trip across the swollen Normanby River by boat, had meant Project Officer Harry James could assess the site and add some finishing touches to ensure what was once a heavily eroded expanse would become a healthy grassland.

“I think it has worked out good,” Cliff Harrigan, one of the Harrigan brothers working at Normanby Station, said.  “We haven’t done a project on that scale before, we’ve done smaller ones, but this blew my expectations, you know, to still see it intact. We haven’t had a really good wet, but the rain has tested it out and it’s held up quite a bit.”

Clayhole is one of the sites to be completed in a five-year erosion remediation project funded by the Federal Government - the Reef Trust IV Scaling Up Normanby Basin Gully and Stream Bank Remediation in Priority Areas Project, which is designed to prevent hundreds of tonnes of sediment from reaching the coast each year.

The alluvial gully site is located on the floodplain of Clayhole Creek within Normanby Station, a 31,400ha pastoral lease managed by the Normanby Rangers as representatives of the Traditional Owners, the Harrigans, of Normanby Station. 

The property is approximately 42km west of Cooktown and 45km northeast of Laura with the river running directly through it (and over key crossings during the wet). 

To kick off the works at Clayhole last year, the Normanby Rangers received training in machine operation using a nearby gravel pit. 

“We got to drive machinery here, bulldozers, water trucks, and got our tickets for them. We can do it ourselves now, help others, and pass knowledge on to our younger ones,” Cliff said. 

They worked with an experienced machine operator, under supervision from Cape York NRM, to reshape and batter the gully to a stable, free-flowing surface. The area was then treated and incorporated with gypsum and fertiliser before it was mulched and seeded just before the 2021 wet season. 

Now as the rains play hard to get this wet season, the team has nurtured the site just that little bit further, thinning the mulch where it has moved into thicker drifts, and adding more seed just for good measure. They now wait to enjoy the results in the coming months. 

“This is my Grandfather’s country – Dad’s father’s country - so that was one of the reasons I wanted to come back and look after this Country. I didn’t want it to go to rubbish,” Cliff said. “This is where I’m going to retire… this is where I wanna be. I’m not getting any younger and I want this place to be somewhere for my kids, and all my nephews and nieces, and also my little granddaughter. Somewhere they can come back and learn about the history, learn about the Country. 

“We have a lot of sacred sites here, and a lot of cave paintings here. And there’s still a lot of old people buried on Country here.  

“That’s one of the main reasons us boys came back here to look after them as well. 

“Yeah, it’s a pretty special place.”


This project is funded by the Australian Government's Reef Trust.

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