Erosion hotspots and solutions


What a difference 18 months can make – that’s the feeling at Tash and John MacPherson’s cattle property where a swag of changes is rejuvenating the land and waterways.

The family is working with natural resource management organisation Terrain NRM on a property overhaul that includes earthworks, fencing, tree-planting, alternative water sources for cattle and a fresh perspective on grazing the land.

Tash Macpherson said the results were a win for cattle pastures and the overall environment.

“When we bought this property in mid-2020 we de-stocked it for a year,’’ she said. “The land really needed a break. There was bad erosion – big wash-outs along the waterways where the cattle had been, and springs that were a boggy mess.”

Through the project, three creeks have been fenced-off, smaller grazing paddocks have been created, 5000 native trees have been planted to strengthen creekbanks, and an off-stream watering system has been installed with a bore, water tanks and troughs.

Zuni bowl, fencing, tree-planting, off-stream watering solutions…

A Zuni bowl was also constructed to stop erosion advancing in one of the paddocks.

Terrain NRM’s Vanessa Drysdale said the bowl was a carefully designed lining of rocks at a steep drop in the gully erosion.

“This was an active gully system that had eroded several hundred metres in wet seasons over the last few years, and wasn’t going to slow down without intervention,’’ she said. “The traditional solution is a rock chute, but Zuni bowls are a more cost-effective treatment method that has proved its worth on Tableland and Daintree farms over the last few years.”

Saving sediment from reaching the reef

She said the combined work on the MacPherson property would save an estimated 180 tonnes of sediment from flowing to the Great Barrier Reef each year. It’s one of 11 properties where earthworks, tree-planting, fencing and off-stream watering infrastructure strategies have provided long-term solutions to erosion issues.

Terrain’s Upper Johnstone Integrated Project also includes workshops on soil and grazing management practices, which have been taken up by about 150 landholders.

Ms MacPherson said there were many benefits. “It has been exciting to see the changes – from the improvement in our pasture to platypus returning to our creeks,’’ she said.

“We bought this property knowing we wanted to improve it, and we began with de-stocking and cleaning up the dam.

“Then to get this help, we’ve been able to make big gains quickly. It is bringing our vision to fruition in fast-forward – of vastly improving water quality as it leaves the property and increasing biodiversity along our creek lines while still maintaining our cattle operation.”

The overall project

The Upper Johnstone Integrated Project is funded through the Queensland Government’s Natural Resources Investment Program. This project is focused on reducing sediment losses to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon while helping graziers by addressing erosion problems and improving pastures and livelihoods.

For more information, see our Upper Johnstone Integrated Project page.

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