Thursday, May 30, 2024

Road run-off program rolled out for Great Barrier Reef preservation

Queensland councils have stepped up their efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef from damaging silt being washed from the state’s thousands of kilometres of unsealed country roads.

The innovative Cleaner Road Runoff research project has begun monitoring unsealed roads and their impact on water quality at test sites in Whitsunday Regional Council and Gladstone Regional Council in a bid protect the natural icon.

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, said Local Government Association of Queensland CEO, Alison Smith.

“Councils – on behalf of their communities – continually demonstrate their commitment to protect the Reef,” Ms Smith said.

“This research will give us critical information to help advocate for funding to create cleaner road runoff to protect our Reef and better roads for communities.”

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.

LGAQ CEO, Alison Smith.

The Cleaner Road Runoff project results are expected to form the basis of guidelines to improve road design and maintenance.

The program is also set to expand after LGAQ secured an additional $1 million of funding from the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF). The funding will see the program extended until May 2024 and the inclusion of two more reef catchment councils.

The LGAQ is seeking two councils to join Gladstone and Whitsunday on the project, with expressions of interest now open.

Gladstone Mayor, Matt Burnett said councils know how important the Reef and roads are to their communities.

“This research will help us protect our globally-renowned Reef and better roads as well,” Mayor Burnett said.

Acting Whitsundays Mayor, Mike Brunker said the research would be good for the Reef and local roads.

“Councils are the big road builders and fixers so it’s important we manage and minimise our road silt run off because it’s only going one place – the Reef,” Cr Brunker said.

“Keeping the road material where you put it is also good for our roads.”

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director, Anna Marsden said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the LGAQ and local councils to expand the great work underway to improve Reef health through the innovative Cleaner Road Runoff project.

“The Reef needs strong partnerships like this, which bring together all levels of government and communities, to deliver the research, innovations and on-ground action we need to protect our Reef in this critical decade.”

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.

Latest Articles