Hard work heals the landscape on ‘Wahroonga’

Repeated flood events have left a legacy of scars across Queensland’s farming landscape but you would have to look pretty hard to find any on Robyn Brosnan’s Millmerran cattle property.

During the past two years Robyn has been working alongside QMDC’s soil conservation officers and Millmerran Landcare to remove all trace of a six-metre deep gully which rapidly progressed on ‘Wahroonga’ after the January 2011 flood.

The transformation is nothing short of spectacular and according to Robyn, it was a blend of good old-fashioned know how and expert advice that turned the gully into a stable, natural drainage line and riparian area.

“After spending some time thinking of the best way to fix the problem, I decided to wait until the storm season had passed before organising a dozer to come and start on repairs. It was a combination of input from the dozer driver, QMDC staff and my own ideas that made the project a success,” Robyn said.

When Robyn purchased ‘Wahroonga’ in 2007, there was already a certain amount of damage due to it being a junction for several gullies, but the 2011 flood was the turning point.

“I had about four inches (100mm) of rain in two hours which eroded a lot of top soil and then, every time it rained, I lost more through a waterfall effect.

“I had a situation where the gully was working its way back and I knew if I didn’t do anything the problem would keep getting worse,” she said.

QMDC Soil Conservation Officer Vanessa MacDonald said the key steps on ‘Wahroonga’ included stock piling top soil, battering the gully head at 1:10, spreading top soil back over the battered area and then immediately seeding with oats, Rhodes grass (Chloris gayana) and Queensland blue grass (Dicanthium sericeum) to protect the soil from rainfall and flow on.

“Robyn is now managing the area as a sensitive riparian zone using electric fences to reduce the risk of future erosion occurring,” Vanessa said.

Robyn believes her decision to scatter grass seed by hand over the two-hectare site was the key factor to stabilising the gully.

“I think it was a wise investment of my time to harrow the area and throw seed around as I got a good strike of oats which helped to hold the soil during winter and made way for summer grasses to thrive,” she said.

So dramatic is the result, QMDC and Millmerran Landcare held a field day on ‘Wahroonga’ to showcase Robyn’s efforts and discuss the options available for gully restoration work including the principles of ‘The Battering Solution’.

“The main focus of the day was to highlight the importance of adopting all the recommended principles to reduce the risk and have a high chance of success, as was achieved with Robyn,” Vanessa said.

With her focus now on protecting the area from over grazing, Robyn concedes it’s a case of ongoing management.

“The area has been tested, I had four inches (100mm) in early January 2013 which filled my dams above the gully and when subsequent rains sent water down the system, it held up, I was very pleased!” she said.