Reef Rescue 2008-2013 exceeds expectations in the Wet Tropics

Just as industry partners and Terrain knuckle down to deliver Reef Rescue 2013-2018, results from the first five years of the program are showing that Reef Rescue has implemented impressive on-ground changes in the Wet Tropics region.

Final figures show that over five years Water Quality Grant funding of more than $18 million, together with an average of 57 per cent landholder contribution, resulted in more than $43.5 million being invested in agricultural practice change in the Wet Tropics region.

Furthermore, with agriculture making up 58 per cent of Wet Tropics land use outside the World Heritage Area, 73 per cent of this productive area was impacted by the Reef Rescue initiative.

“Our regional outcomes actually exceeded the targets set by the Reef Rescue program,” said Terrain’s Reef Rescue Coordinator Deb Bass.

“We received applications from approximately 65 per cent of all farmers and graziers in the Wet Tropics region.  The target was set at 648 farmers to receive funding and with the help of our partners, Terrain was able to fund a total of 911 projects.”

An independent evaluation of the Wet Tropics’ program delivery of Reef Rescue undertaken in April found that the use of incentives brought forward targeted practice change in the region by an average of 5.4 years.

A Reef Rescue funded stoolsplitter fertiliser box at work on a cane farm near Innisfail

A Reef Rescue funded stoolsplitter fertiliser box at work on a cane farm near Innisfail

The evaluation also found that the Wet Tropics’ program also stimulated land managers that had not previously considered making changes to in fact make practice change.

The program data collected by Terrain not only identifies impressive farmer participation levels and extensive agricultural practice change, but it also establishes that some excellent achievements have been made in terms of water quality outcomes in the Wet Tropics.

The impact on water quality is estimated to be, at the end of catchment, a reduction of 964 tonnes of nutrients, 1,051 kg of pesticides and 30 kilo tonnes per year of sediment.

This equates to reductions of: 17 per cent of dissolved inorganic nitrogen, 10.5 per cent of pesticides and 14.3 per cent of sediment.

“These are truly phenomenal results for our region,” said Terrain’s CEO Ms Sweatman.

“The 2013 Scientific Consensus Statement, which was prepared by an independent panel of scientists, states that a major cause of the poor state of many reef ecosystems is the decline of water quality from terrestrial runoff from the catchments adjacent to the Reef.  The Consensus also states that improved land management practices are proven to reduce the runoff of nutrients, sediment and pesticides from agricultural land.”

“This is why the Federal Government’s Reef Rescue initiative has been such a successful one.  It has enabled a huge group of people to undertake practice changes that have mutually inclusive outcomes: improving water quality for the benefit of the entire community whilst improving farming practices for their own benefit.  It has been wonderful to see the Wet Tropics farming community embrace this initiative.”

Reef Rescue Systems Repair projects in the Wet Tropics also achieved: 2,158 hectares of riparian area revegetation, gully erosion control on 25 sites, 196 off-stream watering points, 39 sediment traps and 138km of stream bank repair.

The Reef Rescue funded feral pig control program also meant that feral pig control was undertaken on 240,000 hectares of land in the Innisfail, Tully and Herbert districts, involving 88 farmers in the cane and horticulture industries with a total of 7,000 feral pigs captured and destroyed to date.