Bundaberg Regional Council has joined a state-wide research project to protect the Great Barrier Reef from silt washed from thousands of kilometres of unsealed country roads.
Led by the Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ), the innovative Cleaner Road Runoff initiative has already started monitoring unsealed roads and their impact on water quality at test sites in Whitsunday Regional Council and Gladstone Regional Council in the Reef catchment.
With an estimated average 25mm of road material washing off the top of 38,000km of unsealed roads in the reef catchment every year, the project could have a massive impact on the health of the reef as well as benefit the communities that cherish and rely on it.
Fine sediments like those washed from unsealed roads and drains are one of the three greatest water quality risks to the reef, reducing light to seagrass beds and inshore coral reefs.
The Cleaner Road Runoff project results are expected to form the basis of guidelines to improve road design and maintenance.
LGAQ CEO Alison Smith said it was terrific to expand the project to additional council areas.
“This research will give councils critical information to help advocate for funding to create cleaner road runoff to protect our Reef and better roads for communities,” Ms Smith said.
Bundaberg Region Mayor and LGAQ Policy Executive member Jack Dempsey said the Bundaberg Region had a focus on sustainability and participating in this research project would help to enhance that commitment.
“Mon Repos is renowned as one of the world’s most significant turtle nesting sites and just off the shore of the Bundaberg Region coastline lies the start of the Great Barrier Reef,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“Our community is aware of the significance of this positioning and we’re proud to be among the Councils leading the push to protect the reef.
“This initiative is about taking a collaborative approach to dealing with issues of runoff to work together towards the common goal of a healthier reef now and in the future.
“Achieving this goal not only means great things for the environment but will maintain the Bundaberg Region’s status as a leading eco-tourism destination.”
Bundaberg Regional Council one of three welcomed into project
The program expansion comes after the Local Government Association of Queensland secured an additional $1 million of funding from the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF), extending the research until May 2024 and including the extra reef catchment councils.
Bundaberg Regional Council Water and Wastewater portfolio spokesperson Jason Bartels attended the LGAQ’s inaugural Coastal Leaders Forum in Gladstone where the commitment to the research project was made.
“It was fantastic to be a part of the discussions held throughout the forum and the official announcement of the Bundaberg Region’s involvement in this program,” Cr Bartels said.
“Bundaberg Regional Council is always looking for innovative ways to better serve our community and the local environment and the Cleaner Road Runoff Project is another way we’re achieving that.”
Isaac Regional and Cassowary Coast Councils also signed on for the research project at the forum.
Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said the extra partnerships and innovation were critical to solving the challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef.
“If we can improve the quality of the water flowing out to the Reef, we can improve the health of the Reef and the marine life that depends on it,” she said.
“We’re thrilled to welcome the Cassowary Coast, Isaac and Bundaberg regional councils as Clean Road Runoff project partners which will allow us to expand the impact of this important research already underway with LGAQ in the Whitsunday and Gladstone regions.”
The Cleaner Road Runoff Project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation with support from Griffith University, IPWEAQ, Department of Environment and Science, Office of the Great Barrier Reef, Bundaberg Regional Council, Whitsunday Regional Council and Gladstone Regional Council.