Stewardship assessments in the Mackay-Whitsunday report card

Stewardship is assessed in the annual Mackay-Whitsunday report cards in both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors within the region. Stewardship is defined as:

‘Responsible and sustainable use, and protection of water resources, waterways and catchment to enhance the social, cultural, environmental and economic values of the region’.


Non-agricultural stewardship

The Mackay-Whitsunday region’s non-agricultural sector ranges from tourism, aquaculture and urban, to heavy industry and Ports. Stewardship for non-agricultural sectors/industry is reported on by assessing the percent of the sector/industry that is operating at different management practice levels relating to management practise frameworks specific to each industry. Non-agricultural stewardship is currently assessed by the region’s major sectors/industries annually via a survey with Environmental Managers and review of compliance data.

Agricultural stewardship

The Mackay-Whitsunday region has a diverse agricultural sector, with important commodities being grazing, sugarcane and horticulture. Many North Queensland farmers are improving the profitability and long-term sustainability of their farms by adopting best management practices. Through these practices, they are also improving the quality of the water entering the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. The Mackay-Whitsunday-Isaac report card aligns its agricultural stewardship reporting with the GBR report card, which are reported through the Paddock to Reef (P2R) program.

The Partnership are releasing a second report card this year, which will showcase how the region is responding to help improve all aspects of waterway health. Stay tuned for the release of the 2018 stewardship report card scores and for information on what you can do to improve waterway health!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.
Stewardship results are 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).

A new urban stewardship framework is currently being developed and set to be implemented in the Mackay-Whitsunday region for future report cards.


Sugarcane is an important agricultural industry for the Mackay-Whitsunday-Isaac region and currently accounts for 20% of land use in the region. The Central Region Sugar Industry is located to the north and south of Mackay and is organised around 2 milling groups in the region. Stewardship in the sugarcane industry is reported against a specific sugarcane water quality risk framework.


Grazing is an important and valuable industry in the Mackay-Whitsunday-Isaac region, and accounts for 42% of land use. Graziers in the region face unique challenges as beef producers being situated in a coastal and Central Queensland climate. Stewardship in the grazing industry is reported against a specific grazing water quality risk framework.


The Mackay-Whitsunday-Isaac region has a well-established and strong horticulture industry, with the most significant area under horticulture found in the Don basin, near Bowen. The region has a vibrant and growing fruit and vegetable community producing mangoes, citrus fruits, pineapples, passionfruit, strawberries and avocados, seasonal vegetables, as well as manufacturing value-added products with sauces, jams and pickles. Stewardship in the horticulture industry is reported against a specific horticulture water quality risk framework.