Reef Guardian Council news

Reef Guardian Council News is the Authority’s e-newsletter for Reef Guardian Councils and their key partners.  The e-newsletter showcases some of the many and varied activities Reef Guardian Councils are undertaking to help address key threats to the Reef. If you work for a local government, or local government partner organisation, and would like to subscribe please email

December 2021 Reef Guardian Council News

Think global, act local - © Townsville City Council

Eat shop and support local

Think global, act local

Townsville City Council is asking residents to give Townsville businesses (and the Reef!) the ultimate gift this Christmas by thinking globally and shopping locally.

This not only ensures money is circulated through the region’s economy but also reduces shopping miles.

Shopping miles are a measure of the energy and pollution associated with moving whatever it is you're buying from its source to your retailer or home.

These miles can quickly add up, especially where the raw materials used to produce the item are sent to another country before being assembled and then distributed.

Buying local, from presents to groceries, can reduce shopping miles, which in turn minimises energy expenditure and emissions that contribute to climate change — the greatest threat to Reef.

We encourage other Reef Guardian Councils to share the same Christmas message in their communities to help #LoveTheReef — think global, act local!

Summer Reef health - © Commonwealth of Australia (GBRMPA)

Reef Summer Health

Summer Reef health

The Reef Authority recently held its pre-summer Reef health workshop to discuss with scientific and technical experts likely conditions on the Reef during this period, typically a high-risk time when cyclones and increased sea surface temperatures are more prevalent.

Off the back of this workshop, as part of our ongoing commitment to enhance information sharing, Reef Guardian Councils communications staff were invited to attend a briefing on plans the Reef Authority has in place for monitoring and communicating Reef conditions over summer.

We strongly encourage Reef Guardian Councils communications staff to continue to attend future Reef health update meetings and cross-promote Reef health updates on social media in particular.

We also urge all Reef Guardian Councils members to subscribe to our Reef health e-newsletter to stay-up-date across the summer.

Whitsunday climate partnership - © Commonwealth of Australia (GBRMPA), Photographer: M. Cowlishaw

Whitsunday climate partnership

Whitsunday climate partnership

The Whitsunday Regional Council’s Climate Change Innovation Hub has welcomed the first group of official Healthy Heart Reef partners, with over twenty of the region’s proud tourism operators, marinas and island resorts attending a welcoming presentation on Tuesday 19 October 2021.

The Healthy Heart Project provides an opportunity for partners within the local tourism sector to set higher and more ambitious targets for climate change mitigation, to improve the health of the Reef and lead the way towards the Whitsunday region achieving a zero net emissions target by 2050.

Climate Change Resilience Officer Lee Hawkins at the Hub announced the initial EarthCheck rapid assessment for the Sustainable Destination Certification has been completed.

“A Sustainability Policy will now be put in place by Council to align with the ambitions of this project and the region’s goal to become a Sustainable Destination,” Ms Hawkins said.

This project is a wonderful example of the government, tourism industry and other partners banding together to take climate change action for the Reef.

Mackay meetings - © Commonwealth of Australia (GBRMPA)

Mackay meetings

Mackay meetings

The Reef Guardian Councils program recently offered councils the rare opportunity to come together from across the Catchment to network, share ideas and brainstorm solutions to help communities and the Reef.

The program hosted the Executive Committee and Working Group meetings in Mackay on 28 October 2021, of which 33 representatives from 18 Reef Guardian Councils attended, along with the Reef Authority, Local Government Association of Queensland and other guest speakers.

Working Group members toured a number of sites including the Mackay Natural Environment Centre, fishways, fishing platforms and lagoons showcasing activities contributing to the health and resilience of the Reef.

The members then joined the Executive Committee meeting.

The meeting provided the opportunity for councils to:

  • Share successes, challenges and learnings of Reef-related initiatives
  • Formulate new ideas and solutions to help communities and the Reef
  • Network and identify collaborations with other councils and organisations
  • Find out about current and upcoming grants
  • Hear the latest Reef news firsthand from the Reef Authority
  • Provide feedback on the Reef

It was an inspirational day showcasing the myriad of environmentally sustainable practices being undertaken by councils to protect the Reef.

Meeting attendees are reminded to check the action register sent out for any meeting actions they may need to follow up.

Crushing it at recycling - © Mackay Regional Council

Crushing it at recycling - © Mackay Regional Council

Crushing it at recycling

Mackay Regional Council have leveled up their recycling game with the installation of a new baling machine at their Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

This was in addition to council offering public tours of the MRF and hosting a soft plastics webinar with REDGroup during National Recycling Week.

‘Recycling. It’s not rubbish.’ was the message shared by council during the week.

Recycling right helps reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and ensures good quality recyclables are sent for market.

Recycling also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing energy consumption.

Using recycled materials to make new products reduces the need for virgin materials. This avoids emissions that would result from extracting or mining virgin materials. In addition, manufacturing products from recycled materials typically requires less energy than making products from virgin materials.

Well done to Mackay Regional Council for ensuring efficient recycling in the region and helping curb climate change — the greatest threat to the Reef.

October 2021 Reef Guardian Council News

CQ works together for a renewable future

Livingstone Shire Council

© Livingstone Shire Council

More than 60 local government representatives from seven areas gathered together for the first time in August to discuss how to manage changes to the energy sector across Central Queensland in a two-day forum.

Hosted in Yeppoon by Livingstone Shire Council, the Local Government Association of Queensland's Queensland Climate Resilient Councils program and Cities Power Partnership, the forum covered topics including renewable energy zones, clean manufacturing, sustainable agriculture, electric vehicles, skills and education.

Reef Guardian Councils in attendance included Gladstone, Isaac, Livingstone, Rockhampton and Whitsunday councils.

All councils involved found they were dealing with similar issues and risks in their communities. They also identified numerous opportunities for moving towards a cleaner economy. Recognising the importance of collaboration and information-sharing, a formal alliance concept is currently being considered at a council officer level.

Angling for sustainable fishing

Angling for sustainable fishing - Copyright Commonwealth of Australia (GBRMPA) Photographer: D. Chaplin, Pine Creek Pictures

Copyright Commonwealth of Australia (GBRMPA) Photographer: D. Chaplin, Pine Creek Pictures

Douglas Shire reels ’em in! - © Douglas Shire Council

© Douglas Shire Council

Douglas Shire Council continues to show leadership in promoting sustainable recreational fishing by launching a new webpage and organising a special family fishing event.

The new webpage ‘Fishing for the Future’ is devoted to sustainable fishing and details best fishing practices, Marine Park zoning information, and the Council’s draft sustainable fishing action plan.

The ‘Fishing for the Future with Kids Day’ was a catch and release event hosted by the Mossman Boating and Fishing Club and supported by local charter fishers.

The event targeted the next generation of local anglers, and attracted plenty of experienced young anglers and first-time fishers who learned about responsible fishing practices.

Burdekin backs new technology

Burdekin backs new technology - © Burdekin Shire Council

© Burdekin Shire Council

A revolutionary wastewater treatment plant to reduce harmful nutrients on the Great Barrier Reef is one step closer to reality.

Burdekin Shire Council has committed $40,000 for further project development of an estimated $6.5 million Macro-Algal Bioremediation facility.

A scaled trial is already underway in collaboration with Pacific Bio and James Cook University at the Ayr/Brandon Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The trial uses freshwater macro-algae to remediate nitrogen, phosphorus and heavy metals from discharge effluent, which pose a significant threat to Reef health.

If successful, the innovative project will not only save Burdekin ratepayers money – it has the potential to substantially reduce the environmental impact of discharge effluent worldwide.

Rocky tidies up at awards

Rocky tidies up at awards - © Rockhampton Regional Council

© Rockhampton Regional Council

Rockhampton Regional Council has taken home two national Keep Australia Beautiful 2021 Tidy Towns Awards.

Mayor Tony Williams said winning the Environmental Sustainability – Natural Environment and Environmental Sustainability – Water categories was a fantastic achievement. “Being named overall winners in the state, and then being nominated as national finalists, is a testament to many of the great initiatives happening across council,” he said.

“The overall nomination captured the diversity of the work that we are doing to improve on, and contribute to, the environmental sustainability of our region. We are doing some really fantastic work in this space.”

Australian Sustainable Communities – Tidy Towns judge Gail Langley visited the region in March, and commended Rockhampton’s leadership and innovation in water conservation and management, as well as strides taken to protect its natural environment.

“Rockhampton has demonstrated a deep commitment to protecting its waterways and environment by implementing several long-term programs and projects that protect, maintain and enhance important natural and cultural assets such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Fitzroy River and Nurim (Mount Archer),” she said.

Running nationally since 1990, the Australian Sustainable Communities – Tidy Towns Awards encompass projects and initiatives with a focus on environmental sustainability and resource management to reflect a growing awareness of the importance of community-led environmental action.

View the finalist presentations here:

August 2021 Reef Guardian Council News

Propagating planting participation

© Bundaberg Regional Council

© Bundaberg Regional Council

Bundaberg Regional Council is encouraging the community to dig in and get involved in the region’s One Million Trees project through the roll out of two new programs this year with support of the community.

The programs include the Resident Voucher Program and Landowner Program.

The Resident Voucher Program was trialled in 2020 with great success.

The program was fully subscribed in the short space of three days after making 250 vouchers available for residents (one voucher being good for two free seedlings). With strong support from the region, the program was launched this year. Residents can apply for a voucher for two free trees from Bundaberg Landcare.

Increased community engagement will help the region deliver on its goal to plant one million trees by the end of 2024, which in turn will result in reduced urban heat, increased natural habitat, enhanced attractiveness of the region and improved wellbeing.

The project additionally helps address Reef-related threats linked to climate change, land-based run-off and coastal development.

Check out Bundaberg Regional Council’s webpage for more details such project’s progress, which is effectively illustrated through an interactive map  showing all the locations where trees have been planted.

Cultivating positive behaviour change

© McKenzie-Mohr & Associates Inc.

© McKenzie-Mohr & Associates Inc.

In recognition of the connections that Reef Guardian Councils have with their communities in the Reef catchment, world-renowned behaviour change specialist Dr Doug Mackenzie-Mohr was engaged by the Authority to deliver behaviour change training to council staff in June 2021.

Participants learned the five steps of ‘Community-Based Social Marketing’ (CBSM) and were exposed to numerous case studies illustrating its use throughout the world to foster behaviour change.

The steps included selecting behaviours, identifying barriers, developing strategies, conducting pilots, and broad scale implementation.

The training also included an electronic copy of Dr Mackenzie-Mohr’s New York Times recommended Fostering Sustainable Behaviour book and six intensive CBSM sessions.

The intensive sessions focused on six topics — selected in consideration of their relationship to key Reef threats, impact on Reef health and resilience and relevance to councils. These included:

  • Fish responsibly
  • Reduce artificial light
  • Drive responsibly on beaches
  • Reduce food waste
  • Compost organic waste
  • Plant native species.
  • Forty-six Reef Guardian Council staff from 12 councils attended the training. These councils are now better equipped than ever before to cultivate Reef stewardship in catchment communities.

Cairns leads climate action


© McKenzie-Mohr & Associates Inc.

Cairns Regional Council is currently developing a climate change strategy to shape the next decade of climate action.

This will build on previous climate action and coastal hazard planning, investment in renewable energy and an emissions reduction of 50% on 2007/08 levels by the end of 2021.

The strategy will:

  • identify a pathway for the council to further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions
  • goals and actions for the council’s own operations
  • ways to support the community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to unavoidable impacts
  • opportunities to develop Cairns into the capital of the Smart Green Economy in Australia.

We commend Cairns Regional Council for developing such a bold strategy. This is a fine example of local government leading the way on climate change action.

Reef councils centre of attention

© Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership

© Wet Tropics Healthy Waterways Partnership

Seven Reef Guardian Councils recently featured in the centrefold of the Reef and Rivers magazine, launched by Wet Tropics Waterways last month.

The article contained feature stories showcasing the environmental initiatives of Wujal Wujal, Cairns, Douglas, Cassowary Coast, Tablelands, Hinchinbrook and Mareeba councils in the Wet Tropics region.

This was an excellent opportunity to give councils the recognition they deserve for the work they’re undertaking to improve the health and resilience of the Reef.

June 2021 Reef Guardian News

Recycling program upgrade

Cassowary Coast Regional Council. Image credit Cassowary Coast Regional Council

Recycling program upgrade. © Cassowary Coast Regional Council

Cassowary Coast Regional Council has recently expanded its recycling program to include household and cordless tool batteries.

When batteries are sent to landfill, they leach toxic substances such as cadmium, mercury and lead into the ground which can pollute soils, waterways and ecosystems including the Reef.

To make it easier for residents to recycle their used and unwanted batteries, Council has placed 12 specially marked orange bins across the region at libraries, customer service centres and waste transfer stations. The batteries are then collected by a contractor who transports them to a Cleanaway facility for recycling.

With the addition of batteries, the recycling program now diverts 22 waste products from landfill.

To promote the news and encourage the community to recycle, the Cassowary Coast Regional Council has advertised the recycling program on social media and on radio, and has provided a primary school education session.

By working together and making small changes in how we manage waste, we can help protect the Reef from threats such as land-based run-off.

Getting dirt on erosion

Douglas Shire Council Erosion and Sediment Control Workshop. Image credit Douglas Shire Council.

Erosion and Sediment Control workshop. © Douglas Shire Council

Douglas Shire Council recently hosted a community Erosion and Sediment Control workshop on 29 April — coincidentally after 10 straight days of torrential rain.

“The Douglas Shire is one of the wettest places in Australia,” Sustainability Officer Melissa Mitchell said.

“The workshop was designed with the Wet Tropics in mind.

“It addressed what erosion is, how it is caused, and the repercussions of not having effective erosion and sediment control practices.

“The workshop also covered pollution control and focused on defining best control practises, and practical methods to improve water quality.”

Land-based run-off is a major threat to the Reef. Improving erosion and sediment control practices is a cost-effective strategy to reduce environmental impacts and cost-implications.

Tools and training resources from the workshop can be found here.

The workshop was part of a funded project to build Urban Stormwater and Erosion and Sediment Control Capacity by the Queensland Government.

Waterway naturalisation

Construction has begun for the Belle Eden Park Waterway Naturalisation in the Bundaberg Region — an exciting and innovative project delivering an integrated approach to treating stormwater runoff.

By restoring the Belle Eden Park drainage channel to a natural waterway, the project will improve stormwater quality and treat polluted stormwater runoff which is harmful to sensitive downstream waterways and ecosystems such as the Reef.

The project also aims to make the area a wonderful recreational space for residents by providing several new footpath connections, a new pedestrian bridge, a new picnic shelter and park benches, waterway rock crossings, additional trees for shade and grassed open spaces for active play.

The project supports the active transport network by encouraging residents to use local pathways. The project is funded through the Australian Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program (LRCIP) and financial contributions from developers.

Bell Eden Park Waterway Naturalisation. Copyright Bundaberg City Council

Restoring the Belle Eden Park drainage channel. © Bundaberg Regional Council