The Queensland Government has committed $5.5 million in funding to local projects to help improve water quality in catchments adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef.
According to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, land-based run-off from agricultural, industrial and urban land use has increased the amount of sediment, nutrients and contaminants in coastal waters.
On top of the rising seawater temperatures and acidity resulting from climate change, the reef’s 35 major catchments have declining water quality.
Drainage from 424,000 sqkm of coastal Queensland has raised algal growth, the build-up of pollutants in sediment and marine species, while also reducing light and smothering corals.
As a result, industries dependent on the reef, such as tourism, fishing, recreation, research and education, are in growing danger.
Grant projects may arise from opportunities in agricultural land, catchment management, landscape remediation, natural capital, agricultural supply chains and circular economy sectors.
But the program’s core purpose is to address water quality as a major threat to the reef, which Environment Minister Leanne Linard says the government is strongly committed to.
“Past projects, such as the Wet Tropics and Burdekin MIPs (Major Integrated Projects), have demonstrated success in bringing key players together to co-design and influence land and catchment management,” Ms Linard said.
“These projects present opportunities for Queensland’s land and agriculture sectors to not only achieve genuine ecological outcomes and enhanced productivity and profitability, but also to contribute to the state’s low-carbon future.
“That’s why the government is committed to working with these sectors, and others, to enhance the state’s environment and further develop the natural capital market in Queensland.”
Past MIPs were locally tailored, had a catchment-wide focus and were developed by landholders and experts. Some of the projects involved water quality monitoring, practice change, catchment repair, gully remediation, incentives and extensions.
However, this funding from the Queensland Reef Water Quality Program (QRWQP) will also offer $750,000 for projects developing the state’s natural capital market and integrating investments in reef catchments.
Since 2015 the State Government has invested $1 billion on programs and initiatives protecting the reef, of which nearly $290 million went into the QRWQP over five years.