“We will be guardians of our land and oceans, so that we have healthy food production and an outdoor life for our families and visitors for generations to come.”
This coastal sub-region covers the Burdekin-Haughton lowlands and includes the irrigated Burdekin agricultural areas around Ayr and Home Hill. It is bounded to the north-west by Mt Elliot National Park and to the west by the Leichhardt Range, where coastal plains give way to hilly country characterised by pastoral land use. The sub-region includes coastline from the internationally-listed Ramsar wetlands at Bowling Green Bay in the north to Gumlu in the south-east.
The coastal waters include seagrass-dominated, shallow marine environments of the GBR Lagoon which provide significant habitat for many iconic marine species and are covered by Bowling Green Bay and Upstart Bay Fish Habitat Areas and Dugong Protection Areas.
The Burdekin River is the fourth largest river by flow in Australia and flows through this sub-region to its mouth near Ayr. This river generates the single largest suspended sediment and nutrient load point in the whole GBR Lagoon (NQ Dry Tropics, 2016). Key local assets are river water supplies, particularly from the Burdekin River, groundwater, flat irrigable land on alluvial soils, a picturesque natural coastline and extremely diverse and productive natural ecosystems. The coastal systems in this sub-region play an important role in providing ecosystem services to the surrounding community as well as flow on services to the adjacent GBR.
The water from the Haughton and Burdekin Rivers is also used as an urban water supply and drought reserve for Townsville through an inter-valley transfer pipeline to the Ross River Dam.
Community and enterprise
Approximately 18,000 residents live in this sub-region, mostly within Ayr and Home Hill and surrounding intensive irrigation areas. Away from the coast, larger grazing properties support a sparse population.
The Lower Burdekin contains the largest irrigation area on the east coast of Australia. It is increasingly known as one of the most productive agricultural districts in Australia due to its abundant year-round supply of water supplied by the Burdekin Falls Dam higher in the Burdekin catchment. Combined with an average of 300 days of sunshine each year, it is consistently the most productive sugarcane growing area in Australia. The sub-region also produces fruit, vegetables, beef and seafood for domestic and international markets.
This area is somewhat uniquely positioned to accommodate expansion, diversification and value-adding opportunities, however this relies on the ability to secure and transport water (including potentially raising the Burdekin Falls Dam), soil capacity and interaction of irrigation water with groundwater systems. In addition it would need to be within the constraints of downstream impacts on high priority wetlands and the GBR.
Lower Burdekin & Offshore Community Priorities
Effective management of water and energy for productivity and the environment
“Our community recognises the link between adopting innovation and profitability, and that efficient use of energy and water increases agricultural productivity and environmental protection. We will achieve this by sharing information, adopting beneficial technologies and clearly measuring results to build community resilience, successful enterprises, and the health of our local groundwater systems, rivers, wetlands and the GBR.”
A skilled and collaborative community
“We want ongoing support from well-trained extension staff who continue to build the skills of our community to work individually, or collaboratively, to manage the natural resources on which our livelihoods depend. We will establish strong partnerships and relationships between landholders, community groups, researchers and government, to help disseminate knowledge for future generations.”
Recognised land stewardship and control of introduced pests
“Our farmers are stewards of the land, who seek to achieve social, economic and environmental outcomes for their enterprises to create security for their families and the community. Our community will encourage them to increase their uptake of best management practices and explore opportunities for financial incentives to reward sustainable practices. We will encourage urban development without the loss of prime farm land, and promote the importance of urban, rural and peri-urban residents proactively working together to tackle pest and weed issues. We would like to foster strategic and compatible land use to realise its full potential, while maintaining soil health and reducing unnecessary financial inputs.”