Cattle station helps to protect the Reef

October 3, 2019

A remote cattle property in Far North Queensland is doing its bit to help the Great Barrier Reef.

Tirrabella Cattle Station’s Fitchett family will prevent more than 150 tonnes of sediment – equivalent to seven semi-trailer loads - from reaching the Reef each year through a recently-completed rock chute on their grazing land in the Mt Garnet region.

The 20m chute has been constructed in an eroded gully connected to the Herbert River. The work is part of the $3 million Herbert Gully and Grazing Project, delivered by Terrain NRM and funded through the Australian Government’s Reef Trust IV program, to help landholders with erosion control and grazing practice changes.

Terrain’s Jen Mackenzie said the rock chute aims to stop erosion.

“The gully feeds directly into the Herbert River,’’ she said. “This newly-constructed chute is part of a larger project at the station that includes revegetation at the rock chute site and some longer-term changes to pasture management.”

Tirrabella Station’s Fitchett family has welcomed work on the property. A family representative said the rock chute was designed by engineers, and its construction followed similar erosion control work on other Upper Herbert cattle properties.

“The chute mimics the way water drops through pools in a rainforest creek,’’ he said. “It’ll save our topsoil. This adds to work we’ve been doing here establishing alternative watering points through a bore and troughs, and fencing along the river to manage erosion and cattle movements in that area.”

The Herbert catchment, which extends 340km from the Herberton and Ravenshoe areas to the coastal region of Ingham, is one of the three biggest contributors of sediment loads to the Reef. The other two are the Burdekin and Fitzroy catchments.

Sediment is one of the main materials affecting the health of the Great Barrier Reef. Fine sediment poses the highest risk to reef ecosystems, smothering corals, seagrasses and other plants, affecting their growth and survival, along with that of turtles, dugongs, fish and other sea life.

Ms Mackenzie said working with station owners, some more than 100km from the ocean, was a win-win for landholders and the Reef, with changes to grazing practices expected to bring even greater gains than engineered earthworks in the longer-term.

“Hundreds of graziers have come to workshops since the Herbert Gully and Grazing Project began in 2018, with the focus on fine-tuning grazing practices through natural grazing methods targeting stock rotation patterns, soil health and pasture management,” she said. “We are expecting to significantly reduce sheet erosion as well as gully erosion.”

Visit the Herbert Gully and Grazing Project page for more information.