Implementation challenges of large-scale land remediation actions from an industry perspective

Damon Telfer

The NESP 3.1.7 project has demonstrated that large sources of fine sediment from alluvial gully systems can be very effectively abated using a variety of fit-for-purpose remediation techniques.

The NESP research has both benefited from and assisted industry providers. Ongoing partnerships between researchers and industry operators should pay dividends in terms of improved cost-effectiveness through more effective targeting of remediation works and improved techniques.

However, the implementation of large-scale (tens of hectares) remediation projects in remote locations has significant challenges. Among these are the willingness of landholders to host intensive remediation programs, mobilisation of plant and equipment to remote locations, worker accommodation and safety, access to suitable remediation resources, contractor capacity, and high operating costs. These factors impact cost-effectiveness.

In terms of scalability, to give perspective, the projects funded at Strathalbyn Station in the lower Burdekin under Reef Trust, the Queensland Government’s Reef Innovation Fund, Greening Australia’s Reef Aid program, and the GBRF, represent works on less than 2% of the priority alluvial gully remediation sites identified in the Burdekin. Works at these sites reduced fine sediment pollution to the reef lagoon by approximately 10,000 tonnes per annum, or one third of a percent of the estimated annual total fine sediment export from the Burdekin, or roughly 1.2% of the Burdekin catchment’s 2025 targets for fine sediment reduction. This is a massive achievement that relied on more than 50 individuals and local businesses.

However, at a total investment exceeding $3.4M for on-ground works for these projects alone the challenges of achieving the Reef 2025 targets under current funding and implementation arrangements are stark. Do the targets need revision or do implementation arrangements need to adapt to the challenge?