Greening the Barron.
The Barron River is one of the largest rivers in the Wet Tropics and it’s also the most modified – with constructions like Tinaroo Dam and the loss of wetlands and riverbank vegetation. An ambitious ‘Green Corridor Project’ has brought people together to help restore the catchment.
The way I see it, giving up a strip of land along the river benefits not just your place but everyone.
Locals are accustomed to seeing the surging brown waters of the Barron River after heavy rainfall. The catchment’s water quality has been a concern for over 20 years as urban coastal development expands and adds to pressure from agriculture on the Tablelands.
Sheryl Fitch, Co-Coordinator of Barron Catchment Care, says the Green Corridor Project began after 140km of the Barron River’s 165km length was identified as needing rejuvenation in a 2000 Water Quality Improvement and Management Action Plan. This galvanised community groups, councils and landholders to work on revegetation and remediation initiatives.
Tablelands farmer Ron Bonadio was one of the first private landholders to jump on board. Two generations of Bonadios, and previous landholders, had cropped the riverside land but Ron saw an opportunity to do things differently. He began an agritourism project on the river flats and that included converting riverside farmland into a rainforest.
“We’d always planted corn and other crops right up the river, with just a small strip at the edge,’’ he says. “We’d lose some of the crop to flooding and to animals like bandicoots and field mice, but it was productive farmland. When we decided to stop growing crops on the lower section of our river flats, to return it to native Mabi forest and create a caravan park above, it was very much thinking outside the square.”
Twenty-five thousand native trees have since been planted beside the river on the Bonadio’s property. The oldest are 30 to 40 metres tall and they span three kilometres of riverbank as part of a corridor of Mabi forest – a critically endangered rainforest ecological community only found in North Queensland. The revegetation site has helped to reduce erosion and prevent sediment from flowing down the river and, ultimately, to the Great Barrier Reef.
“When we get big rainfall events now, the water running off our place is virtually clear,” Ron says. “There is much less run-off in general because the land is capturing about two-thirds of it now. There is also less erosion. The way I see it, giving up a strip of land along the river benefits not just your place but everyone.”
Sheryl describes the Bonadio property as a “success story” for the Green Corridor Project.
“Other farmers in the community see what’s been achieved there. It has always been our intention to create a mosaic of projects all the way through the Barron catchment. Every small part of the patchwork is of tremendous value.”
“This has been a long-running project and a big one for us all. We’ve been grateful for many grants over the years, and many helpers, to make projects like this one possible.”
As well as partnering with farmers to revegetate riverbanks, Barron Catchment Care has worked with landholders and councils to slow down the flow of stormwater and fix gully erosion in rural residential areas. Projects have involved land contouring, the construction of Zuni bowls and creating off-stream detention ponds to capture sediment.
“The Green Corridor Project is ongoing,” Sheryl says.
Barron Catchment Care acknowledges long-standing collaborations with North Queensland Land Management Services, Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands (TREAT), Terrain NRM, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Wet Tropics Management Authority, Traditional Owners, councils and locals including the farming community.