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Reef Assist program

The $12 million Reef Assist program (the program) delivers priority environmental projects and creates regional jobs for unemployed and underemployed Queenslanders in the Wet Tropics, Burdekin Dry Tropics and Mackay Whitsunday Great Barrier Reef catchment areas.

The program has created alternative employment opportunities in highly tourism-dependent regions impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also delivered environmental outcomes, including those linked to the Queensland Government’s ongoing priority of protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

The program started in July 2020 with $10 million invested in the delivery of 11 on-ground projects. These projects were delivered in partnership with local governments, natural resource management organisations and private organisations with a proven track record in environmental restoration.

The Queensland Government has invested an additional $2 million to extend seven projects until June 2022, to ensure Reef water quality improvement outcomes are maximised.

The projects are tackling a range of environmental issues including:

  • protecting critically endangered species habitat
  • rehabilitating dunes to improve resilience to natural disasters
  • stabilising stream and riverbanks
  • removing weeds and other invasive pest species
  • investigating ecotourism trail opportunities
  • developing conservation-based tourism expeditions and undertaking revegetation works.

Some projects also draw on the skills and knowledge of First Nations people to provide training and environmental management skills for Indigenous job seekers.

Project outcomes

As of March 2022, the program has supported more than 180 full-time, part-time, and casual positions:

  • 65% identified as First Nations
  • over 40% were youth
  • more than 25% were women
  • over 80% of participants received training, with 112 unique training courses (including 59 formal qualification courses) covering 40 different themes were delivered.

The program has also improved the condition of native vegetation habitats through weed removal and revegetation:

  • 10,000 native seeds collected for propagation (some for use in later revegetation programs)
  • 26,700 native seedlings planted
  • 11 hectares of revegetation using more than 52 native species
  • 25 cassowary food species planted.

The program has improved water quality and resilience to future floods through riparian revegetation, engineered bank stabilisation and gully remediation:

  • 13 kilometres of riparian vegetation zones revegetated
  • almost one kilometre of engineered stream bank stabilisation works
  • 125 gully erosion remediation structures built, covering an area of 37.7 hectares
  • 2.2 kilometres of cattle exclusion fencing installed in areas where gully erosion was prevalent.

The program has improved soil condition through enhancing the soil microbe community and on-site composting of weeds across over 34,000m2 area.

The program also produced ecotourism assets (eco trails and tables) and rehabilitated wetland habitat. Tourism operators were supported to remove marine debris and invasive weeds from turtle and seabird nesting beaches, as well as support marine and coastal habitat restoration works.

Projects

Wet Tropics region

Wet Tropics Management Authority: Boots on the Ground [Extended]

  • tackling on-ground threatened species and climate resilience work in the Barron, Mulgrave and Johnstone River catchments
  • training job seekers to undertake land management activities for weed removal, seed collection, native plant identification, revegetation, nursery maintenance and threatened bird and mammal monitoring.

Wet Tropics Management Authority: Creating a Sustainable Environmental Economy [Extended]

  • creating a sustainable environmental economy that will support Indigenous employment and training in the Wet Tropics
  • landscape restoration works to improve the condition of native vegetation, remove weeds, control feral pests, and undertake activities for marine debris removal.

Jaragun Ecoservices: Environmental Restoration in the Russell River Catchment [Extended]

  • stabilise stream banks on Babinda Creek and McPaul Creek
  • protect wetlands and improve wildlife corridors that link Bellenden Ker Range, the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and the Great Barrier Reef.

Terrain Natural Resource Management: Riparian Revegetation – Johnstone, Murray and Russell Catchments [Extended]

  • revegetation of at-risk riparian sites in the Johnstone, Murray and Russell catchments.

Douglas Shire Council: Dune Rehabilitation in the Douglas Shire [Delayed – still being delivered]

  • develop foreshore management plans and rehabilitate dunes in the area to improve their resilience to natural disasters such as flooding and cyclones.

Burdekin region

Townsville City Council: Community Based Riparian Recovery Works and Ecotourism Infrastructure Project [Extended]

  • improve riparian vegetation buffers, remove weed waste and debris, and investigate opportunities for ecotourism trails across the region.

NQ Dry Tropics: Healing Country [Extended]

  • partner with Indigenous job seekers to undertake landscape restoration works in the Burdekin region.

Palm Island Aboriginal Shire Council: Clump Point Road and Frances Creek Rehabilitation Works, Palm Island [Completed]

  • remediation works on two culverts on Clump Point Road to prevent sediment run-off to the Reef lagoon.
  • rehabilitate Frances Creek which has been impacted by sedimentation and weeds.

Mackay Whitsunday Region

Reef Catchments: Leading Economic Stimulus Through Land Management Action [Extended]

  • use a variety of conservation and land management activities, including the control of invasive species, to improve natural habitat condition and build resilience of natural habitats.

Reef Catchments: Whitsunday Tourism and Environment Taskforce [Completed]

  • supported and trained Whitsunday marine tourism operators in island and coastal environmental protection and rehabilitation works.
  • supported activities included marine debris removal from sea turtle and sea bird nesting sites, foreshore weed removal, coral reef surveys, coral larval reseeding, and coral out-planting.