Jobs for Queensland’s natural environment – a shovel-ready list of projects to get Queensland moving for environmentally-inspired COVID-19 recovery

Natural resource management group Healthy Land and Water has asked the State Government to fund $154.6 million of infrastructure spending to deliver eight major projects across the state. The hit list of infrastructure projects assembled by Healthy Land and Water would drive employment in regions hit hardest economically by COVID-19. According to Healthy Land and Water’s CEO, Julie McLellan, the plan taken to the Queensland Government prioritises projects that improve the natural environment and recreational outcomes for Queenslanders while creating much-needed jobs in areas that have struggled under movement and trading restrictions.

“These projects have the potential to generate around 168 long-term full time jobs across Queensland, bringing enormous benefits to the state’s recreational, agricultural, and environmental industries,’’ Ms McLellan said.

“The projects are all tried and tested natural infrastructure projects that can bring long-term benefits to regional economies as well as all Queenslanders who live and enjoy the natural environment we are so blessed to have in our beautiful State.

“One in 19 Queenslanders own a boat, with more than a quarter of a million recreational vehicles registered in Queensland,’’ Ms McLellan said. “Recreational fishing contributes $880m to the Queensland economy while the commercial seafood industry adds close to half a billion dollars to the Queensland economy each year.

“Given the critical link between Queensland’s environment and our economy, it makes sense to invest in shovel-ready projects that enhance the viability of regional economies while benefitting such a wide section of the population.’’

Healthy Land and Water currently delivers natural resource management projects in South East Queensland and across Queensland alongside the state’s other 11 natural resource management organisations. Ms McLellan said the organisation had worked with scientists, researchers, engineers, town planners and resource management partners to identify a hit list of projects that would deliver the most impact for the environment and the people who use it.

“Over the past two decades we’ve developed the expertise to trial, test and prove the value of a number of critical natural infrastructure projects that improve and protect our natural assets across Queensland,’’ Ms McLellan said.

“These projects are about improving the environment so that Queenslanders can continue to enjoy the obvious benefits our unique environments bring.

The projects include plans to replace 1000 block and tackle boat moorings across the state that degrade the underwater environment, preventing the growth of seagrasses and impacting seabeds that are critical for fisheries productivity. Plans also include proposals to build regional jobs by reconnecting rivers and creeks obstructed by redundant weirs or failing dams to improve fish stocks, treating weed-infested rivers and creeks, expanding fire management strategies developed in collaboration with Traditional Owners to reduce hazards, repairing eroded gullies that silt river systems and engineering log jams to protect riverbanks and prime agricultural land. The total spend includes a $100m project to generate 40 jobs and the implementation of recovery actions focused on ensuring the future of some of Queensland’s 955 threatened species, many of which are critical tourism drawcards such as the Bilby, Sea Turtles, and the Cassowary. The plan has the backing of Natural Resource Management Regions Queensland (NRMRQ) who said work should be prioritised to kick off in areas struggling economically from COVID-19 impacts.

“Our current level of investment is only a fraction of what needs to be provided across the State to improve our natural infrastructure,’’ NRMRQ CEO Chris Norman said.

“Given the urgent need to generate jobs in regional areas, it makes sense to prioritise on-the-ground delivery, where much-needed jobs will boost local economies.

“Across the State regional NRM groups are a vehicle for working towards COVID-19 recovery. The sector can generate many jobs delivering important outcomes for the State.

“This includes employing and funding projects involving some 350 Traditional Owners. We are working with landholders to improve management practices for over 1.5 million hectares and have targeted reduced sedimentation, weed control, erosion works and the protection of threatened species and ecological habitats – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg,’’ Mr Norman said.

 

Please see table below for table of the election priorities and why they are important

  Project Why it’s important Who benefits
1 Replacing destructive boat moorings

$20m over 4 years

Generating 40 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs

  • The majority of current mooring infrastructure used by boat owners is not engineered and is often environmentally destructive to fish habitats.
  • Replacing old moorings in priority areas with engineered and environmentally friendly moorings is an essential step in repairing critical fish habitats.
  • The project would target 1000 old block and tackle moorings in priority areas along Queensland’s coastline such as within Moreton Bay and the Gold Coast Broadwater.
  • Seagrass beds (where many moorings are located) are one of Queensland’s most productive habitats for fisheries.
  • The commercial seafood industry contributed $479 million dollars to the Queensland economy in 2017/18 employing 4,027 people in fishing.
  • Recreational fishing contributes $880M per year to the Queensland economy and engages 20% of the population in an important recreational, social and cultural activity.
  • Recreational and commercial fishing benefit from improved fisheries habitats.
  • More than 250,000 recreational vessels are registered in Queensland.
  • Many permanent moorings badly damage the environment that boat owners are seeking to enjoy, destroying seagrasses vital for healthy marine ecosystems.
  • Boat owners benefit from improved engineering of mooring infrastructure.
2 Removing barriers to fish movement

$6m over 3 years

Generating 5 FTE jobs

  • The sustainable supply of fish for the recreational and commercial industry is threatened by the presence of barriers to fish passage such as dams, weirs, causeways, culverts, earthen bunds and floodgates which impact on breeding behaviours and success.
  • Recreational and commercial fishing (and safeguarding the $528m to the Queensland economy that is attributable to fishers within estuarine environments).
  • Barriers such as dams, weirs and causeways limit fish breeding and impact recreational and commercial fishing.
  • Recreational fishing contributes $880m a year to the Queensland economy while commercial fishing employs 4000 people and contributes nearly $500 million.
3 Implementing fire management strategies

$10m over four years

Generating 15 FTE jobs

 

  • Protection of life and livelihood is reliant on appropriate fire and fuel load management.
  • Traditional fire management practices have been removed from much of the landscape and need to be reinstated alongside the best available science to effectively reduce fuel loads.
  • Australia’s ecosystems are widely adapted to fire and require appropriate fire to remain healthy. This can only be achieved through well-coordinated fire management regimes and plans while recognising that Traditional Owner-led fire management practices have been in place for many thousands of years It is important to integrate the science with traditional owner knowledge across Queensland.
  • The project would also implement recommendations raised by many respondents to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements and recommendations identified by the Queensland Fire & Biodiversity Consortium.
  • The delivery of coordinated fire management strategies is critical to the maintenance of regional communities, iconic landscapes, and species.
  • Costs to fire-affected regions in Australia from lost tourism, agriculture and retail income for 2019-20 is estimated at between $1.1-$1.9 billion.
  • There are many vulnerable communities that require cross tenure fire management regimes that when implemented will reduce the risk to life and property and improve community safety.
  • Support and empower Traditional Owners to play a critical role in land management.
4 Reducing invasive weeds in waterways

$600,000 over three years

Generating 10 FTE jobs

  • Biological control agents such as the Jewel Beetle will be used among other cost-effective, long-term strategies to reduce weed infestation in waterways and decrease sediment build-up – creating healthier waterways and environments.
  • Healthy waterways are critical for human health.
  • Weeds such as Cats Claw Creeper (Dolichandra unguis-cati) and Madeira Vine (Andredera cordifolia) are affecting the health of the state’s waterways and the treatment of our drinking water.
  • Decreasing sediment in waterways by 10% could reduce annual water treatment costs by around $16 million.
  • Community groups and volunteer organisations such as Landcare and farming communities will play a critical role.
5 Reducing erosion and sedimentation risks leading to low water quality

$3m over 3 years

Generating 8 FTE jobs

  • Left untreated, significant erosion in farmland catchment regions can have major impacts on coastal water quality and reduce the availability of agricultural land.
  • Left untreated drinking water supplies can be put at risk due to poor water quality and reduced ability to undertake treatment.
  • This project would support farming properties and a community team of local residents, land care groups and local government workers to address gully, hillslope and channel erosion through land management.
  • Waterways are critical to community infrastructure providing drinking water, sewage treatment, along with economic and recreational benefits.
  • Left untreated drinking water supplies can be put at risk due to poor water quality and reduced ability to undertake treatment.
  • The project supports downstream communities including drinking water supplies and the health of Moreton Bay.
  • Local contractors are critical to delivery creating rural and regional infrastructure jobs.
6 Supporting the delivery of urban waterway infrastructure projects in regional communities across the State

$11m over 4 years

Generating 40 FTE jobs

  • This work would be focused on waterways running through urban areas of regional communities, with actions to improve the recreational and economic value of the waterways by making them more desirable and ecologically productive.
  • Existing start-ups and social enterprises, including Traditional Owner-led and managed groups, would be supported alongside local government to implement urban waterway infrastructure projects in 35 local government areas across the state.
  • COVID-19 has highlighted that well-designed urban green infrastructure is important for human wellbeing.
  • The development of local skills and expertise is critical to the ongoing delivery and sustainability of natural infrastructure and waterways in regional areas.
7 Trialling a new system of ecosystem health monitoring in South East Queensland to reduce cost for government and industry

$12m over 3 years

  • Reduce the compliance burden on industry and government with a more integrated approach to environmental health reporting, trialling a new system for data collection in South East Queensland.
  • Increase transparency and availability of environmental health monitoring to create a more accurate picture of the condition of natural resources.
  • Better reporting across the regions will contribute towards ensuring healthier environments while reducing compliance costs for government and industry.
  • It would extend the benefits of water-focused monitoring that has been ongoing for 20 years to an integrated approach and build a more accurate picture (current modelling is the well-respected Healthy Land and Water Ecosystem Health Monitoring Report Card).
8 Coordinate threatened species recovery across Queensland

$100m over four years

Generating 40 FTE jobs across regional Queensland

  • Support and fund Traditional Owners and local land care and community groups to implement recovery actions for threatened flora and fauna in Queensland many of which are critical assets for the tourism industry (cassowaries, koalas and sea turtles to name a few).
  • Queensland has 955 threatened species, however significant implementation of recovery actions for the vast majority of these threatened species is not in place.
  • The protection of threatened species requires investment on private property alongside investment in protected areas such as national parks.
  • Tourism industry, landholders and Traditional Owners.

 

Download the Opportunities for State Government document to learn more.

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