30 May 2017
Scaling up Normanby basin gully and stream bank remediation in priority areas
Primarily at sites situated around the Laura and Normanby Rivers of the Normanby catchment, the program involves land management improvement and the active remediation of gullies. Funded by the Australian Government's Reef Trust over five years (2017 to 2022), Cape York NRM is working with land managers, contractors, and engineers to design and deliver best practice gully remediation projects in the Normanby catchment. By stabilising gullies, reducing weeds, improving land management, and excluding cattle from erosion areas, the program aims to improve the health and resilience of inland riparian habitat and improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef.
The upper Normanby catchment delivers an average of 1.39 million tonnes of sediment per year into Princess Charlotte Bay, of which alluvial gullies contribute approximately 37 percent (Brooks et al. 2013). Gully erosion was identified in the Eastern Cape York Water Quality Improvement Plan as the single largest threat to water quality in the northern Great Barrier Reef. The Reef Trust Phase IV Program is designed to integrate and build on the Reef Trust Phase II Gully Erosion Control Project on Crocodile and Normanby Stations, and the Reef Trust Phase III Reef Alliance Cape York Grazing Project.
Activities include: fencing to exclude cattle from gully areas; over 1000 ha of weed control; improved road and fence drainage; reshaping and soil remediation; construction of gully remediation structures including rock chutes, diversion banks and porous check dams; 90 ha of revegetation; and training workshops and field days focusing on riparian and gully management. As well as this, the project will prevent hundreds of tonnes of sediment from reaching the coast each year. These activities are spread out over the five-year project timeline from 2017–2022.
Accomplishments and challenges
The main challenge from Wayne’s perspective is that there is always more work that can be done and only limited funds to do it.
“It’s important to be proactive and target problems before they get out of control. The challenge is that it takes time to get the resources and support to do the work well. We’re always looking to do more to restore the land,” Wayne said.
Cape York NRM’s Sustainable Industries and Water Quality Manager Michael Goddard was very pleased with the progress of work at Spring Creek. He praised Wayne for his proactive attitude towards remediating environmental issues on his land.
“Wayne has done a fantastic job with this project. He has done a lot of hard work to make the engineer’s designs a reality. The benefits to his property and to water quality downstream are substantial,” Michael said.
“For Cape York NRM, a big challenge is making sure these projects make a difference in the long run. We can fix a gully, but if the surrounding land is overstocked, then it’s just a temporary solution. That’s why when we fix a gully, we also focus on changing how the entire landscape is managed, whether that’s with better pasture management, fire management, tackling weeds or constructing smarter roads.”
Wayne says the project has been a valuable learning experience, emphasising the importance of proactive land management. With Cape York NRM’s help, he plans to continue to tackle erosion issues across Spring Creek, as well as staying on top of other issues such as rubber vine infestation.
Normanby Station has hosted annual gully remediation workshops, bringing together ranger groups, land managers, erosion control experts and NRM officers to share learning on gully remediation techniques and participate in hands-on remediation work.
The Rangers also provide training opportunities for South Cape York Catchments school-based trainees. The trainees regularly visit Normanby Station to gain practical experience in land management activities.
On top of this, Normanby Traditional Owners run tours for visitors to Cape York through Culture Connect.
“We get people from around Australia, but also internationally,” Vince says.
“Having tourists out here, it is not only showcasing our country, it is also a great educational tool. We show tourists our rock art sites and cultural heritage, but we also take them to the gullies and explain the work we are doing.
“We’re giving visitors insight into what country can look like if it’s managed properly.”
Vince says that working around the constraints of the wet season is always one of the biggest challenges, along with the sheer scale of erosion issues. “Getting people and materials up here is always hard, particularly in the wet season.
“For the big gullies, there are always limits on what we can do. We can always do more. Being able to work with Cape York NRM and do as much as we have has been great.”
“Our work at Normanby really goes to show that you can have conservation and cattle management working hand in hand”
Vince says he hopes to continue improving land management activities at Normanby, as well as providing training and employment opportunities for young people on country.
Remediation work is set to commence on the Clayhole Creek gully this dry season.