What is stewardship?

We define stewardship as “responsible and sustainable use and protection of our water resources, waterways and catchments to enhance the social, cultural, environmental and economic values of the region”.

The Partnership assesses annually how our regional industries are performing against stewardship criteria. Stewardship is important to include in our annual report cards as it provides information on the actions landholders and organisations in the region are implementing to provide benefits to ecosystems.

How do we measure it?

Each year we assess management efforts by our major non-agricultural industries that maintain or improve the condition of our waterways. These efforts are scored across three activity groups (administration, operations, and development) and across three management themes (planning, implementation, and outcome). Data is collected via questionnaires to a series of organisations/companies from each industry. Information in the public domain such as management plans, as well as compliance data (with confidential information removed) is also added to the data pool for each industry. A stewardship score is then calculated for each management theme and activity group for each industry across four categories: ineffective, partially effective, effective and very effective management practices. Here is further information on the method involved in calculating the scores.

In agriculture, frameworks that have been developed, reviewed, and endorsed by industry are currently available for grazing, sugarcane, and horticulture and are based on the joint Australian and Queensland Government’s Paddock to Reef reporting that uses “Water Quality Risk frameworks” (previously “ABCD Frameworks”). Here is further information on the agricultural stewardship scores for our Region, including how are calculated and how results for 2015/16 compare to other regions. Interested in the cane industry specifically? View a flyer recently released in Billet magazine in Mackay.

2016/17 stewardship assessment scores (non-agricultural)

Heavy Industry

The Mackay-Whitsunday Region has a large diversity of heavy industry activities, including coal export terminals, sugar mills, meat processing facilities and storage areas for commodities such as mineral sands, petroleum products and grain. These industries are highly regulated and have effective environmental practices in place to protect ecosystem health and water quality. Effective was scored for the third year in a row and includes compliance data related to heavy industry.


The aquaculture industry in the Mackay-Whitsunday Region is comprised of a small number of prawn, barramundi, and red-claw crayfish farms. The industry is highly regulated, primarily in relation to waste water discharges and the management of biosecurity issues such as disease. Very effective was scored for the third year in a row and was consistent across the administration, development and operations activity groups.

Marina at Mackay.

One port authority (North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation) operates the Ports of Abbot Point, Mackay and Hay Point within the Mackay-Whitsunday Region. The Region’s ports account for approximately 50 per cent of Queensland’s total export sea trade. Very effective was scored for the first time in 2016/17 and this was consistent across all management themes and activity groups. There was no capital or maintenance dredging during the reporting period.


People with heads under water.

The Mackay-Whitsunday Region is a hub for tourism operations, with approximately 45 per cent of tourists visiting the Great Barrier Reef participating in activities in the region. The commercial marine tourism industry of the region is comprised of a number of operations and activities, including reef cruises and boat tours, organised diving and snorkelling, boat charters, air charters, and water based sports. Effective was scored for the third year in a row. The Implementation management theme and Operations activity group were both assessed as very effective. This reflects the strong links of tourism operators and representative bodies with regulatory agencies and high levels of third party accreditation obtained by operators.

Aerial view of Mackay suburbs.
Urban development within the Mackay-Whitsunday Region is concentrated along the coastal zone. Urban land uses occur predominantly within cities such as Mackay and large regional centres. Several small towns are also located inland and along the coast.
The stewardship results were generated from a range of information sources, including surveys completed by companies involved in urban development, commercial airport facilities, local governments, compliance data from the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP), and a range of relevant studies and publications (e.g. council annual reports). Effective was scored in the 2016/17 reporting period, increasing from partially effective in the 2015/16 reporting period. The improvement in score is due to increased levels of compliance in urban development.