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The Urban project, which ran from 2013-2016, has delivered on ground conservation works across the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region adjacent to the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Project locations were chosen based on impact by urban activities, their trajectory, their ecological and social significance, their ability to be treated effectively, and their hydrological connectivity to the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. The Urban project provided a means to improve the quality of water entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon from coastal urban development centres along the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac coast. The project also facilitated improvement in the resilience, condition and extent of biodiverse native habitats in the associated catchments. Restoration of wetlands, construction of bioretention systems, and installation of gross pollutant traps resulted in reduced net sediment and urban pollutant loss, improving water quality prior to it reaching estuarine, seagrass and coral reef communities. Biodiverse native plantings and strategic weed management built resilience, improved connectivity, and enhanced the condition of estuarine and coastal ecosystems under pressure from coastal urban development. Founded on strong working relationships developed with state government agencies, councils, industry groups, community groups and others, the success of the Urban project effectively leveraged partners’ resources, skills, and interest in protecting the Reef.

Comprised of members from the major urban land planners and managers, the Urban Think Tank provided a valuable platform to openly discuss urban priorities within the region and allowed partners to share progress of relevant activities. The working group facilitated cohesion between organisations and aided the development of strategic partnerships, working towards water quality improvement and enhancement of biodiverse habitats across the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac region.

On ground activities varied from soft landscaping and revegetation mitigation measures designed to stabilise dune and riparian systems to the installation of hard engineered structures such as rock lined channel, instream bunds, fences and stairways.

The construction and restoration of wetlands, bio-retention systems and installation of gross pollutant traps has reduced net sediment loss and improved water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Aquatic habitat improvement works now provide appropriate instream environments for fish migration. Riparian revegetation works complementary to aquatic habitat improvement include increased bed and bank stability, reduced stream power, and improve corridor values (both environmental and aesthetic), whilst promoting additional aquatic functional, such as shade, refugia, and food.

The economic benefits of improving water quality entering the Great Barrier Reef are vast due to the region’s large dependency on the tourism and fishery industries to bolster the local economy. The tourism industry relies on a high quality marine environment and pristine beaches to attract investment. Improvement of water quality leading to the Reef directly correlates to positive economic outcomes and growth.

A high quantum of on ground targets were planned and implemented over the course of the urban project. Works requiring significant on ground labour included: aquatic ecosystem improvements; small medium ecosystem improvements; erosion control actions; weed control; revegetation; public access management; and, feral animal management. Considerable planning, communication and in some cases, negotiation was required to ensure that activities were delivered in a timely manner.

Over the programme’s completion (2013-16), achievements included:
• 1,008 ha of native vegetation protected or restored
• 5,748 ha of improved aquatic habitat works
• 35 erosion control measures installed
• 16 public access points managed
• 42 small medium scale ecosystem improvements
• 37 field activities
• 15.08 ha of biodiverse plantings
• 228.25 ha of weed control
• 500 ha of feral cat management

All achievements exceeded (some double) the original targets set for the programme in 2013. Other notable achievements include the collection of 2,787 kg of rubbish and planting of 91,226 native plants. High volunteer engagement led to a contribution of 2,501 volunteered hours across a range of events, with 3,753 hours committed by project partners.

Monitoring Organisation Reef Catchments

Name Katrina Dent

Phone 4968 4207

Email katrina.dent@reefcatchments.com

Position in organisation General Manager

Activity Type stormwater/wastewater management (e.g installation of improved management systems)

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

30/06/2016

Location of monitoring data

Date quality / confidence

Website URL http://reefcatchments.com.au/urban/

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