Rock chute a tool to improve land and Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is a long way from the Mt Garnet region – but the world’s largest collection of coral reefs is benefitting from work on cattle properties there to repair eroded gullies and keep topsoil on the land.

A 40-metre rock chute is the latest project. Built on Woodleigh Cattle Station with an accompanying 500 metres of bund walls, it is stopping the spread of a gully complex that’s now several hundred metres long.

Reducing sediment loads on the Reef

The structure is expected to save almost 200 tonnes of fine sediment from reaching the Great Barrier Reef each year and, just as importantly, prevent the loss of more productive land to erosion.

Terrain NRM is working with Woodleigh’s Waddell family as part of the Upper Herbert Sediment Reduction Project, funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.

The rock chute is the first engineered structure for a project that’s heavily focused on grazing management practice changes. Woodleigh Cattle Station’s Kate Waddell says the combination is working well on her family’s property.

“Even with good grass cover and light stocking rates, some of our soil types erode easily during heavy rainfall so there has been quite a bit of erosion over the years,’’ she said.

“It’s important to keep our soil on the property – it’s our lifeblood.”

Slowing and channelling storm water

Terrain NRM’s Jen Mackenzie said the new rock chute was slowing water and channelling it into a nearby creek.

“This is an area with historical erosion that’s several hundred metres from a creek and getting worse over time,’’ she said. “The chute was built in the worst of a series of gully heads. When it rains, the bund walls now channel all the water into the chute, and on into a pre-existing channel to the creek.”

The on-ground works follow a series of small group workshops for graziers in the Upper Herbert region on healthy grazing ecosystems, managing cattle to create healthy pastures and reducing erosion by better understanding the way water moves across the land.

Workshops for landholders

Terrain’s Duncan Buckle said 28 land managers had so far been part of the workshops.

“Through the workshops, we’ve been working with landholders from 16 properties. Together they cover more than 209,000 hectares in the Upper Herbert River catchment. The potential outcomes are improved grassland ecosystems, improved cattle and production and, with the reduction in fine sediment flowing down the Herbert River, improved conditions in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.”

For more information, see the Upper Herbert Sediment Reduction Project page.

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