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Partner Profile: Cairns Regional Council

Cairns Regional Council oversees the coastal strip between Mirriwinni and Ellis Beach, an area that spans across approximately 1700 sq km. The area includes significant waterways including the Barron and Trinity Inlet.

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Cairns Regional Council is a Reef Guardian Council

Cairns Regional Council leads the region in waterway health monitoring and improvement activities for the Russell, Mulgrave and Barron Rivers and their tributaries, the coastal zone, and adjacent marine waters. This is achieved through involvement in a number of initiatives and strategies to improve water quality including improvements in flood mitigation, wastewater treatment technologies, community engagement and conducting educational programs and campaigns. These programs focus on water conservation, wastewater and waste management litter control and sustainability.

As a Reef Guardian Council, Cairns Regional Council is committed to driving improvements in wastewater quality, sustainable land use planning, waste management, recycling, and energy performance. Cairns Regional Council is dedicated to ensuring we uphold an integral approach to our environmental practices, actively participating in partnerships to address key threats to the Great Barrier Reef as identified in Council’s Reef Guardian Action Plan 2020 – 2024.

Cairns Regional Council plays a key role in managing the impacts of land-based runoff on the Great Barrier Reef. As part of the Cleaner Seas Initiative, Council upgraded its four largest wastewater treatment plants to deliver world-class treatment standards that significantly reduce wastewater impacts on the reef.  Effective wastewater management is one of the most important ongoing actions taken by Cairns Regional Council to reduce the impacts of land-based run-off on the Great Barrier Reef. Preventative maintenance and infrastructure upgrades, directed by the Wastewater Asset Management Plan, also play a critical role in achieving environmental compliance.

The Smart Catchments Saltwater Creek project is an initiative by Cairns Regional Council in collaboration with key stakeholders including James Cook University, the Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership and Itron Australasia. The project uses instream sensors to measure real-time water quality data to better understand the contribution of an urban catchment to water quality in the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. The project also aimed to employ a range of initiatives to engage the community and build citizen consciousness on water quality issues. This ongoing monitoring promotes continual improvement in water management practices.

Cairns Regional Council continues to promote permanent water conservation and initiatives to support the sustainable use of water. Council’s Water Demand Management Strategy is designed to help manage water demand until 2025 and reduce water use by 10%. It outlines the short and long-term activities Council is introducing to reduce the demand on water to support the community now and into the future.

The ongoing monitoring of point-source and diffuse-source discharges enables Cairns Regional Council to monitor waterway health and identify areas for improvement. Working with Wet Tropics Waterways Partnership, Cairns hopes to contribute to improving the condition of freshwater and estuary waterways that protect the Great Barrier Reef and achieve lasting sustainability in alliance with the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.

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