Water quality monitoring and community involvement were hot topics at a recent action day for the Mossman and Daintree catchments.
More than 60 cane growers and community members heard from speakers about the latest water monitoring results, challenges and achievements at an event organised by the Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership (WTSIP) and Mossman Agricultural Services.
Guest speaker, Wet Tropics Waterways chair Professor Steve Turton, described the Mossman and Daintree catchments as a “water quality hotspot”.
“Nitrogen loss is particularly challenging in the Wet Tropics because of the high rainfall, number of major river basins and close proximity of the reef to the coast,” Mr Turton said.
“Big scale monitoring programs are tracking our overall progress towards the Reef 2050 targets but it can be hard to pick up improvements in cane management at a sub-catchment level.
“Since developing the Wet Tropics Report Card three years ago we’ve been plugging gaps in water quality monitoring throughout the region. As a result, Douglas Shire Council has modified its monitoring in Dickson Inlet and next year we will have water quality indicators for the Mossman basin.”
WTSIP extension officer Laurent Verpeaux, who works with cane growers making practice changes in the Mossman region, said farmers often asked him whether their changes were making an impact on water quality.
“There is a lot of pressure to make these changes and many farmers are investing significant time and energy into improving water quality,’’ Mr Verpeaux said.
“It’s important for them to have the opportunity to hear from scientists about the monitoring that is going on to track progress.
“This event started out as an information day for cane growers but there was so much interest from the wider community that it became a great opportunity to bring everyone together to learn about the latest monitoring data for the Daintree and Mossman, to identify gaps and issues, and work on practical solutions.”
Mr Verpeaux said several growers had since told him they had more confidence in the science and data behind reef water quality, and had asked how the community could plug more monitoring gaps in the Mossman and Daintree catchments.
“In the longer term we would like to see farmers getting involved in local-scale monitoring so they have access to information about water quality flowing from their paddocks,” he said.
“Local scale water quality monitoring is already happening in the Johnstone and Tully catchments, south of Cairns. That would be our ultimate goal because it really helps farmers make decisions about how to fix water quality flowing off their farms.”
The Water Quality Action Day also included representatives from the Queensland Government, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Terrain NRM, Douglas Shire Council and Sugar Research Australia.
Guest speakers included Ryan Turner, Principal Scientist at the Queensland Government, and Ada Marie Pasenen from Douglas Shire Council.
Mr Turner gave an overview of water quality monitoring across the whole Great Barrier Reef catchment, while Ms Pasenen provided local information about monitoring results in the Mossman and Daintree catchments.