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Burnett Mary region
Information resulting from the Paddock to Reef
programme and Programme evaluations, identified
locations for priority as:
Priority area one - major focus of the programme
and covers 1,288,081 ha with predominately
sugar, grazing and horticultural land uses.
Priority area two - includes most of the Mary River
catchment and is 1,007,090 ha. Target industries
in this area were grazing, sugar, horticulture and
Priority area three –opened up in the later years of the
programme and investment only placed there if there
was a significant water quality benefit. It covers
1,363,510 ha and targeted industries for priority area
three were horticulture and dairy.
Progress against contracted targets
Regional Profile
For the 2009 to 2013 period BMRG was contracted to:
The Burnett Mary region covers 53,000 square
kilometres and encompasses the southern extent of
the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Great
Sandy straits World Heritage Area. The region has a
moderate subtropical climate. The main agricultural
land uses are grazing and sugarcane with some
1. Increase by 385 the number of farmers who have
adopted land management practices that will
improve the quality of water reaching the Reef
lagoon by 2013.
Region Priorities
The targeted areas for the programme were
prioritised by considering the following:
Proximity to Reef.
Location in reference to major impoundments.
Land use type and risk of pollutants being
mobilised into waterways.
Sediment modelling and other recommendations
from the Water Quality Improvement Plans for
the Burrum, Burnett, Baffle and Mary
Industries that are considered to have a higher impact
on the GBR lagoon in the Burnett Mary area are
sugarcane (41per cent), grazing (28 per cent),
horticulture (25 per cent) and dairy (6 per cent).
2. Increase by 244 the number of pastoralists over
an area of 30,269 hectares, who have improved
ground cover monitoring and management in
areas where run-off from grazing is contributing
significantly to sediment loads and a decline in the
quality of water reaching the Reef lagoon by 2013.
1,014 landholders (586 new and 428 repeat) received
$11,492,517 (71 per cent of total funding) to improve
management practices within the region. The seven
industry partners and BMRG received a total of
$4,623,555 to implement the programme and
increase skills and knowledge of landholders.
A total of 689 projects were undertaken by farmers in
the sugarcane and horticulture industries and 325
projects by pastoralists in the grazing and dairy
Due to a staged implementation, achievements
which occurred during 2008-09 were not
aggregated in the reported totals. The
engagement over the first year was:
94 sugarcane growers over 28,329 ha were
27 horticulturalists over 1,702 ha were
3 dairy farmers over 171 ha were engaged.
46 graziers over 12,413 ha were engaged.
Load reductions
Modelled load reduction estimates from the
Paddock to Reef programme indicate the
following load reductions for Burnett Mary:
31% per cent reduction in annual average
dissolved inorganic nutrient (DIN) load between
2009 and 2013.
3 per cent reduction in annual average
sediment load between 2009 and 2013.
6 per cent reduction in annual average
particulate nitrogen load between 2009 and
12 per cent reduction in annual average
particulate phosphorus load between 2009
and 2013.
28 per cent reduction in annual average PSII
pesticide load between 2009 and 2013.
Proportion and area of industry engaged
Findings of the Reef Plan Report Card 2012 and
2013 for industry adopting improved practices
in the region between 2009 to 2013:
19% of graziers.
55% of sugar cane growers.
50% of horticulture producers.
Land management improvements occurred
over a total of 126,991 ha, approximately 6%*
of the priority area one and two.
*Please note the total hectare of priority one
and two includes non-agricultural land.
Key pollutants
Nutrient and chemicals from the horticulture
and sugar industries.
Sediment and particulate nutrients from
Soluble nutrient reductions from dairy.
Nutrient and sediment pollutants from dairy
due to tendency to graze cattle on creeks and
wetlands in areas of high erosion in the Mary
Regional Funding
The Australian Government provided a total of
$16,030,915 of funding from 2008 to 2013.
Assisting with improving the quality of water
exiting the catchments is presence of
The late dry season groundcover for grazing lands
in the Burnett Mary region was estimated as high
(84 per cent) in the Reef Plan Report Card 2012
and 2013.
Development and Innovation, private agronomist
consultants and individual landholders.
Key Achievements
The Burnett Mary Regional Group (BMRG)
successfully implemented the Burnett Mary Reef
Water Quality Grants and Partnerships
programme to improve water quality in the Great
Barrier Reef lagoon.
The majority of field officers were involved with
delivery of the programme since the beginning of
the initiative and has been one of the key
elements to the success of landholder
engagement and delivery.
Since 2009, a total of 1,014 landholders have
adopted land management practices to reduce
the run-off of nutrients, pesticides and sediments
from agricultural land. Overall the programme in
the Burnett Mary Region generated significant
enthusiasm and interest.
Activities undertaken to ensure a change in
management practices have included:
Over the five years, the following outcomes were
478 growers from the sugar industry
implemented improved nutrient, sediment
and pesticide management practices over
79,600 ha.
211 horticulturalists improved nutrient,
sediment and pesticide management
practices over 9,200 ha.
288 graziers improved sediment management
practices over 52,700 ha.
37 dairy farmers improved nutrient and
sediment management practices over 2,100
Partnerships with peak industry bodies and
catchment care groups provided extension and
training to farmers and graziers to improve
management practices. Industry partners
Cane sugar - Bundaberg Sugar Services, Isis
Canegrowers and Maryborough Canegrowers.
Grazing – Burnett Catchment Care Association
and Mary River Catchment Coordinating
Horticulture –Growcom.
Infrastructure management and engineering
Creation and management of wetlands.
Water use efficiency practices .
Benchmarking and evaluating farm inputs.
Monitoring soil conditions and modifying
practices in response to the condition.
Implementing best practice land
Programme implementation was affected by two
major flood events in the region, with record
floods in 2013. Some of these impacts included:
12 landholders (canegrowers and
horticulturalists) improved sediment and
nutrient farm run-off through utilising
constructed wetlands, vegetated swales and
sediment ponds.
Financial difficulties for landholders to
contribute 50% of the costs of works.
Restricted access to sites to implement onground works.
Limited interest from landholders to
participate in the programme due to
competing priorities.
Low market prices affecting grower cash flow.
Anecdotally this programme has had a great
socio-economic impact within the Burnett Mary.
The region has historically high unemployment
and is considered to be one of Australia’s lowest
socio-economic regions. These investments assist
landholders to upgrade their practices much
sooner than they could have on their own
(average of four years sooner) and increase
production efficiencies (Source: BMRG Reef
Rescue Landholder Survey).
 Dairy – Queensland Dairy Organisation.
Associated partners and critical friends include
BMRG members, Agforce, Bundaberg Fruit and
Vegetable Growers, Wetland Care Australia,
Department of Employment, Economic
Case study: Dairy – Burnett Mary (Burnett Mary Regional Group)
Winner of the Dairy Reef Rescue award, Monto dairy farmer Geoff Downie has received two Water
Quality grants through the Reef Rescue programme and attended several soils and nutrient
management workshops run through the Queensland Dairyfarmer’s Dairying Better ‘N’ Better
The Downies have improved water quality leaving their property by purchasing and converting a
planter to minimum till and by constructing a new creek crossing on Three Moon Creek to replace
the original one that was damaged in the 2010-11 floods, leaving it unusable by machinery and
In addition to the Reef Rescue funding received, the Downies have invested a significant amount of
capital in these improvements during a time when margins have been tight. The direct benefits of
this investment were obvious to the Downies when the new creek crossing held up against higher
and more powerful flooding during early 2013.
Animal health and productivity gains have also been noticeable. Cows are now healthier and
producing more milk, ground cover has increased and planting is more efficient and creek water
quality has noticeably improved.
Monto dairy farmer, Geoff Downie’s new creek crossing on Three Moon Creek
Photos: Queensland Farmers Federation
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