Terrain NRM announced as Banksia National Sustainability Finalist
3 MARCH 2022
An innovative Reef water quality project based in the Wet Tropics region is now a finalist in the Agriculture and Regional Development category of the Banksia National Sustainability Awards.
Established 33 years ago, the awards recognise individuals, communities, businesses and government for innovation and excellence in environmental and social stewardship.
The Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project has been described as a blueprint to accelerate progress towards achieving Reef 2050 water quality targets.
The four-year project, funded by the Queensland Government’s Queensland Reef Water Quality Program and delivered by natural resource management body Terrain NRM resulted in 23,966 hectares of agricultural land undergoing confirmed practice changes in the Tully and Innisfail region. It also prevented an estimated 73 tonnes of dissolved inorganic nitrogen from flowing to the Great Barrier Reef.
Terrain NRM CEO Stewart Christie said his organisation had worked in collaboration with farmers and the agricultural industry for over 10 years on water quality programs but the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project stood out for its grass-roots collaborative approach and the high level of uptake from landholders.
“We know we can only achieve long-term transformational by tailoring our approach to individual farmers needs and empowering them to be in the driver’s seat,” he said.
“This was a truly collaborative effort which succeeded because of strong relationships between the delivery team, landholders, scientists, Traditional Owners, government agencies, and industry groups – namely Tully & Innisfail Canegrowers and the Australian Banana Growers Council.”
Terrain’s waterway health leader, Charles Hammond said there had been unprecedented buy-in from local communities on water quality issues.
“The critical success factor was ensuring the cane and banana industries were a key part of the project’s governance arrangements and delivery team. This enabled the project to stay true to its grassroots approach, and for landholders to continue to shape the project,” Mr Hammond said.
The inclusion of a local-scale water quality monitoring gave participating farmers locally relevant and practical data to help them make decisions about paddock management. Trials of a number of water quality treatment systems including on-farm bioreactors and vegetated farm drains to sediment basins and constructed wetlands were also undertaken.
The project also led to the development of the Reef Credits Scheme, and the establishment of Eco Markets Australia, the country’s first independent environmental markets administrator. Reef Credits are a market-based solution that enables farmers undertaking practice change to be paid for water quality improvements. The first credits, valued at over $1 million, were issued in 2021.
“The Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project has created a legacy with outcomes such as Reef Credits, Indigenous employment opportunities and the first ‘Queensland Bioreactor Guidelines’ informed in part by this project,’’ said Mr Christie.
The project also provided the foundation for further investment from the Queensland Government and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation into local scale water monitoring in the Tully and Innisfail regions.
“Most importantly, we now have a highly regarded approach for accelerating progress towards achieving reef water quality targets.”
Award winners will be announced on Thursday 31 March.