$30m investment to improve reef water quality

The Hon Sussan Ley MP
Minister for the Environment

The Morrison Government has detailed $30 million in on the ground projects to prevent more than 36,699 tonnes of fine sediment runoff and 175 tonnes of dissolved inorganic nitrogen from entering Australia’s World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef each year.

Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said that reef water quality showed a clear link between government partnerships with landholders and significant improvements to the quality of water entering the reef.

“We are detailing six initiatives that work with local land managers and farmers to deliver on ground action repairing gulley erosion, addressing feral species to protect agricultural land from degradation and improving farm productivity and sustainable farming practices,” Minister Ley said.

“Work to control erosion is already underway with one project in the Burnett Mary region, and today, we are announcing five more across Queensland.

“We know these projects work. The latest Reef Water Quality Report Card shows the actions of farmers are leading to a substantial improvement in water quality, which in turn benefits communities, marine species and tourism businesses.

“This is very much about working with farmers and previous Commonwealth investments have shown that sustainable farming can not only reduce runoff into the reef, it also improves production and profitability.”

Natural resource management groups across the Burdekin, Wet Tropics, Mackay Whitsundays, Fitzroy and Burnett Mary areas will manage the projects.

Special Envoy for the Great Barrier Reef Warren Entsch said today’s announcement underlines the Government’s commitment to continuing these essential partnerships and ensuring the long-term health and resilience of the reef by achieving water quality targets.

“Improving water quality is one of the most important ways we can support the Great Barrier Reef’s outstanding World Heritage values while looking after local farming, recreation and tourism industries,” Mr Entsch said.

“Clearer water means healthier coral and seagrass beds, better outcomes for species like turtles and dugongs, fewer outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, and it also maintains the beauty of the reef for visitors from all around Australia as well as for future generations.

“We are incredibly proud of the work that farmers have done to date to take up more sustainable farming practices, it is making a big difference and it is great to see this work continuing.”

The $30 million package includes the $6.1 million investment in the Burnett Mary region announced in December last year. All six projects will be delivered through the National Landcare Program Regional Land Partnerships Program and funded by the Australian Government’s Reef Trust.

Works will also build on and complement those being delivered under the Australian Government’s flagship $443.3 million Reef Trust Partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, which includes $201 million allocated to improving water quality in high priority Great Barrier Reef regions.

With this new investment, the Australian Government has committed more than $455 million to improving reef water quality from 2014-15 to 2023-24.


  1. In the Wet Tropics, work in the Murray and Mossman river basins will focus on maximising land management practice change that delivers water quality outcomes with a focus on supporting the cane industry.
  2. In the Mackay Whitsunday region, graziers in the O’Connell and Proserpine river basins will be supported to improve the condition of grazing land and sugar cane farms to reduce fine sediment and fertiliser run-off, and to implement more efficient and sustainable farming practices that also increase productivity.
  3. In the Fitzroy, cost-effective on-ground work with growers and graziers will help support positive practice change and reduce fine sediment loads from entering the Great Barrier Reef, while improving soil health.
  4. In the Burnett River area, large scale restoration of river areas will be undertaken to reduce streambank erosion and fine sediment loads. The project will also work closely with landholders and Traditional Owners to improve land management practices, control feral animals and implement weed management plans.
  5. In the Burdekin region, sugarcane growers will be supported to effectively use technical equipment, software and extension services to improve grower profitability, reportability, and water quality.
  6. Another project in Burdekin will repair eroding streambanks within the Burdekin catchment, reducing the amount of fine sediment reaching the reef.

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