The health of Moreton Bay Region’s three main catchments - and across South-East Queensland - has fallen sharply, leading a peak environmental body to warn: “It is time to sit up and take action”.
In the 2022 Healthy Land and Water report, Pine catchment (North Pine River pictured above), including Redcliffe, was down from C+ in 2021 to D+ this year.
Caboolture also fell from B to C, while Pumicestone dropped from B+ to B- during the assessment from July 2021 to June 2022.
Experts say the extreme rain (worse than 2011) and floods of February and March, near the end of the reporting period, caused severe damage especially washing pollutants into waterways.
Professor Rod Connolly, chair of the Healthy Land and Water Science Committee, said heavy rain can “skew” results, but it also acts as an “early warning system”.
In this case, there was “not enough plant roots and vegetation cover to hold (top) soil” which entered rivers, estuaries and the bay, smothering such as sea grass and corals.
Other catchments fared worse. Upper Brisbane (from Stanley catchment to Gatton and Blackbutt) was ungraded; Lockyer, Bremer, Mid-Brisbane and Lower Brisbane were given F, Logan D-, Redland D+, Pimpama-Coomera C+.
At the top end, Noosa pipped Pumicestone to top spot with a B, while in the water areas of Moreton Bay, Central, Eastern and Broadwater were given A-, Western and Moreton Bay B+, Southern Bay B-.
“What floods do tell us is like a stress test,” Prof Connolly said, in the online release of the Healthy Land and Water Report Card. “They find cracks in the management of our catchments in the area.
“Any one year of major rain can skew the results. But like an early warning system … we can look at where our investment needs to be.”
The Healthy Land and Water Report, which dates back to 2000, also highlights positives. In Pumicestone the health of freshwater creeks “remained excellent” and stream bank vegetation is “good”.
But, with the population boom, “critical habitats” in the catchment need to be protected and all levels of government should assess the impact of the water “breakthrough” at the top of Bribie.
In Caboolture, the stream bank vegetation is good and wetland habitat in the estuary “excellent”, though erosion and sediment controls should be increased.
The report says threats to key wetlands must be reduced and education campaigns recommended to support wildlife habitat and waterways.
In Pine catchment, stream bank vegetation was poor and wetland very poor. Estuarine water quality was also poor.
Among the recommendations was to “invest in programs to support land managers” including preserving bushland, manage regrowth vegetation, manage pests and weeds and manage for fire.
Julie McLellan, CEO Health Land and Water, said the results “send a strong message that we need to do more and we need to do it faster.
“Work done has helped but we need to scale up,” she said, “we are starting to see far more stresses on SEQ.”
She said a “key selling point” of Queensland’s Olympic bid was for a green Games which “requires serious investment and action”.
“We know pressures impacting our region. We know what to do and know where to do it.”
Ms McLellan called for a “concerted effort” and all levels of government to develop a Green Olympics Legacy Driver (Gold).
Read the full Healthy Land and Water 2022 report, graphics and recommendations here
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