Resilient Catchments: Place-Based Planning

RETURNING TO WHOLE-OF-CATCHMENT PLANNING & MANAGEMENT

3 October 2023

Over the last 15 years there has been a lot of investment in reef water quality projects but as the impacts of climate change are becoming more evident, it’s good to see that a broader view of catchment planning is being incorporated into new funding programs.

The future health of the Great Barrier Reef is a major concern for our region but it’s not the only concern. As the threats from climate change and biodiversity loss are becoming evident, it makes sense to use reef investment more strategically to solve multiple issues in our catchments.

There are a number of catchments in the Wet Tropics where several reef water quality projects are running independently of each other with little coordination and no overall landscape planning. They may be making good progress in reducing sediment and nutrient runoff, but they are focused on addressing spot issues in isolation of the broader catchment. In other words, it’s like sticking Band-Aids on sores without taking a holistic view of the whole body to consider if its suffering from a chronic health problem.

We need to return to holistic catchment planning and management so we can tackle multiple problems within the broader landscape.

The effectiveness of place-based planning was demonstrated in our delivery of the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project – a reef water quality program funded by the Queensland Government’s Reef water Quality Program in 2017-2021 that combined local knowledge and science after extensive community engagement across the Tully and Johnstone River catchments. This project included a local scale water monitoring program, trials of water treatment systems from bioreactors to vegetated drains, on-farm demonstration sites and educational community events. It piloted new catchment-scale solutions to drive the next wave of change and it garnered unprecedented landholder engagement while also bringing industry and community on board.

Since then, Terrain NRM has implemented this approach on several other projects including the Mossman Integrated Project and Upper Johnstone Integrated Project, which were funded by the Queensland Government’s Natural Resource Investment Program. Both projects tackled erosion problems with engineering works and, in the case of the Upper Johnstone project, through grazing management practice change as well.

herbert flood

Place-based planning is more complex because it involves significant community engagement to ensure broader local issues are addressed, and because it is multi-dimensional. However, it results in community ownership of projects which builds understanding and capacity, leading to greater community stewardship and ultimately improved catchment resilience.

The key outcome of these all these projects is improved water quality but other outcomes that could be integrated are healthier soils, less erosion, better riparian condition and habitat restoration, as well as economic, cultural, social and maybe even health outcomes.

It is great to see new funding programs are starting to incorporate more place-based planning. In a rapidly changing climate, this approach will help our landscapes and waterways become more resilient to intense climatic events including droughts, fires, cyclones and floods. It also means that we’re getting a better bang for our buck – using investment in the reef strategically to solve multiple issues across the whole landscape. Greater collaboration and flexibility between funding programs will make this even more achieveable.

RELATED NEWS

Emerging Leader program

Emerging Leader program

Corporate Template 1
Bucking the trend: Terrain NRM's Board is creating earlier leadership opportunities.
Read More
COP28: What we Learnt

COP28: What we Learnt

Corporate Template 1
Terrain was the voice of the Wet Tropics at COP28. Hear from Barry and Sarah.
Read More
CEO Message

CEO Message

Corporate Template 1
Wishing you a safe and enjoyable Christmas season. Read more for highlights of 2023.
Read More
1 2 3 15

Leave a Comment