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New benchmark partnership to focus on health of waterways

By Mark Beale

A BENCHMARK partnership to help safeguard and monitor the health of the Mackay-Whitsunday coast waterways and marine environment was officially launched by Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, Andrew Powell, last week in Mackay.

Mr Powell joined more than 20 Whitsunday, Mackay and wider Queensland organisations to launch the new ‘Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership’, which will oversee the production of an annual regional waterway health report card, building off the highly successful Mackay-Whitsunday Water Quality Improvement Plan.

The report card will focus exclusively on waterways in the Mackay-Whitsunday region, including freshwater rivers, wetlands, estuaries and coast and marine environments.

The new partnership will be jointly co-ordinated on the ground by Reef Catchments (Mackay Whitsundays Isaac) Limited and NQ Dry Tropics NRM.

Reef Catchments CEO, Robert Cocco, said the collaboration was another step forward bringing together not only industry, science and environmental experts but, most importantly, involving the local community in the long term health of its waterways.

“The formation of the Mackay-Whitsunday Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership furthers the work undertaken via the previous Healthy Waterways Alliance program and now includes additional stakeholders and regions, such as the Don River catchment including the area of Abbot Point,” he said. “With everyone from industry, government and community involved, I am confident that the health of our waterways and marine environment can be enhanced while actively meeting community aspirations.”

Mr Cocco said coast and water systems were a major part of life in the Mackay-Whitsunday region, also feeding directly into the iconic Great Barrier Reef lagoon.

“Our waterways and land catchment areas support critical areas of biodiversity and natural resources; as well as tourism, a coastal lifestyle, a thriving agricultural sector and more,” he said.

“Our water resources are irreplaceable [and] Reef Catchments looks forward to co-ordinating this new partnership to allow the community and its stakeholders to make informed decisions about how to protect and manage natural assets for future generations.”

NQ Dry Tropics CEO, Dr Scott Crawford, said the report card in particular, was a strong step in the right direction, which would allow for improved information sharing, transparency and data quality.

“Ultimately, this will improve our understanding and management of a complex and remarkable environment,” he said.

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