Reef Catchments was awarded funding through the Australian Government Reef Programme to undertake System Repair works across three majors river basins of the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region: the Plane, Pioneer and the O’Connell river basins. These are three of the four major basins in the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region flowing to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Activities will improve the ecosystem resilience and water quality discharging to dugong and fish habitat areas, seagrass beds and coastal fringing reefs in high ecological value marine waters in the adjacent Great Barrier Reef.

System Repair projects look to build resilience into the landscape to be able to deal with future pressures and ultimately improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding catchments. Together, these projects complement the water quality grants projects being undertaken through the Reef Programme, and significantly improve the water being discharged from the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region.

The O’Connell River and Plane Creek basins were identified as the two highest priority areas for System Repair in the Mackay-Whitsunday Water Quality Improvement Plan (2008). The Pioneer River basin is the most intensively farmed agricultural area within the Great Barrier Reef catchment for the region.

The O’Connell River is a major source of sediment to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Comparison mapping between 2010 and 2014 showed that some stretches of the river lost up to 165,000 m3 of sediment during this period. In the O’Connell Basin majors works were conducted to reduce erosion and stabilise banks. Projects included pile fields and engineered bank stabilisation works using rock toes.

In the Plane Basin, activities focused on improving natural systems. Major works were undertaken to restore wetlands and aquatic habitat. This included the installation of fishways, Hymenachne control, bank stabilisation works, and constructing artificial wetlands.

At the Pioneer River, reducing sediment, nutrients and pesticides reaching waterways was the priority. Major works included a targeted network of ‘treatment trains’, which include sediment basins, bio-retention systems and constructed and rehabilitated wetlands. These were established to protect downstream freshwater, estuarine and
marine environments.

During the 2015-16 period the planned on ground activities were undertaken, and the project was finalised. The overall achievements of the project will have substantial benefits for terrestrial and aquatic environments, as well as the Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

Over the duration of the programme (2013–16), achievements across the three river basins included:
• 8 fishways were constructed to improve fish passage between important aquatic habitats
• 2 priority fish barriers were removed
• 5,277 ha of aquatic habitat was enhanced
• 12 sediment basins were constructed to capture sediment from runoff
• 2 artificial wetlands were constructed to improve water quality and provide aquatic habitat
• 3 treatment trains built to improve water quality and provide aquatic habitat
• 92 erosion control measures were completed. These included gully repair and bank stabilisation works, watering points, riparian fencing, riparian revegetation, pile fields and log jams
• 41 km of riparian fencing was installed to exclude stock
• 30 watering points accompanied riparian fencing projects
• 8 structures were installed to improve and protect public access areas
• 39 ha of biodiverse plantings was completed
• 164 ha of native vegetation management was undertaken
• 70,000 native trees were planted
• 125, 928 ha basin scale pest and weed management completed
• 23 workshops and field days were held to engage, educate and share knowledge with stakeholders and landholders

Similar works will be undertaken as part of future programmes.

Monitoring Organisation Reef Catchments

Name Katrina Dent

Phone 4968 4207


Position in organisation General Manager

Activity Type waterway projects (e.g. fish ladder installation, aquatic weed removal)

Activity Indicators water quality in freshwater river basins

Activity location O'Connell catchment, Pioneer catchment, Plane catchment, Proserpine catchment

Frequency of monitoring

Monitoring Start Date 01/07/2013


Location of monitoring data

Date quality / confidence

Website URL

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