Summary Key Issues & Actions

Key Issues

  • Gully erosion is likely the dominant accelerated erosion process across the whole of northern Australia and the GBR catchments contributing to elevated river sediment loads.
  • To date there have been few effective management strategies employed that are targeting and addressing this problem.
  • Current models of delivering NRM funding are not effectively dealing with major concentrated areas of gully erosion, nor effectively reducing sediment yields.  
  • By default the management of gully erosion issues has been left almost entirely up to cattle graziers – with minimal effective assistance from government programs.
  • Given the poor economic state of Cape York Peninsula cattle industry at present, cattle graziers have little capacity to properly address this problem. As such the problem persists unchecked or accelerated under current paradigms.
  • With the predicted expansion of grazing intensity, mining and agriculture in northern Australia, the gully erosion problem will continue to increase if left unchecked (if nothing else through the expansion of the road network and growth of existing gullies).
  • A completely new approach and scale are required to address gully erosion if any real progress is to be made towards reducing sediment yields from rangeland grazing country, which is the primary source for sediment pollution to local river systems in northern Australia and the GBR.

Key Actions

  • Large concentrated areas of mapped alluvial gully erosion with high erosion risk should be targeted for erosion reduction measures using large-scale land management changes (cattle, fire, weed, roads, fences) and localised intensive rehabilitation actions.
  • Cattle grazing pressures need to be shifted away from river frontage areas with dispersible or sodic soils prone to alluvial gully erosion.
  • A joint Federal/State/Territory partnership with key industries (cattle, mining, tourism and irrigated agriculture) is needed to re-establish a northern Australia or Queensland ‘Soil Conservation Service’. The renewed SCS should have the specific purpose of developing the scientific, extension and application services required to address widespread soil and gully erosion with large-scale land management changes and localised intensive rehabilitation actions.
  • Integrated, multidisciplinary property planning is needed to help shift grazing away from sensitive areas of high erosion risk, as well as help landowners (pastoral, agricultural, Indigenous) on Cape York Peninsula with improved land management, stock/pasture/crop management, and financial management.
  • Once integrated property plans are developed, landowners assistance with action implementation and monitoring will be needed to adaptively manage perennial grass cover, weeds, fire, roads, fences, and erosion control measures.