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Townsville recognised for sediment and erosion control

Townsville City Council has been quietly building something that’s having a real impact on the Great Barrier Reef. 

Dirt. It’s the stuff that defines many characteristics of the Townsville landscape. Sun-baked and air-dried most of the year, the soils of our suburbs, city, and surrounding region must hold on for dear life when intense rains turn up in the wet of each year.

Where new developments have seen plant-life removed, the fine dry soils have little to cling to and are easily pushed into stormwater drains, rivers, beaches, and ultimately onto our Reef — unless well managed on site.

“Chuck a fistful of Townsville soil in a glass of water and see what happens,” Townsville City Council’s Community Health, Safety and Environmental Sustainability Committee chairperson Maurie Soars says.

“It dissolves completely into a fine sediment. You can’t even see the particles — it just turns the glass brown.

“Now go to other areas of Queensland or Australia, and put their soil in a glass of water. A layer of sand and particles will eventually settle to the bottom, leaving the water a lot clearer.

“The control of soil erosion and sediment in our stormwater is one of the most important issues in our region, and the highly dispersive nature of our local soils, in combination with high intensity rainfall, makes it a real challenge. Sediment in our creeks and rivers means high levels of turbidity. Sunlight can’t reach river plants, seagrass, coral — fish suffer, and the reef suffers.

“Townsville City Council is a proud Reef Guardian Council and we’re working hard to control sediment and erosion in our region.” 

What out-of-towners don’t know

“We’re a town that naturally attracts new people and expertise from elsewhere in the country,” Cr Soars says.

“Developers, engineers, landscapers, planners, assessors, and project foreman — they can all arrive with no experience of the demands of our local soils, which means their development plans often don’t take into account the unique sediment and erosion control required on their sites. Methods and techniques used elsewhere in the country simply don’t work here.”

Townsville City Council bridging the knowledge gap 

For the last 14 years, Townsville City Council has funded a unique training for land developers to teach cutting-edge sediment and erosion control techniques for Townsville’s Dry Tropics.

Development companies of all sizes send their people to complete the training. New Council staff participate. Other Reef Guardian Councils across the region, are also invited to send staff. Small local development and earthworks businesses are attending.

Townsville City Council hosts the training opportunity, which allows organisations and businesses the economy of scale to send themselves or their staff to this specialised training, needed for our region.

“It saves these organisations significant time and money, which is important to keep projects moving forward for our community,” Cr Soars says.

As awareness of the training and expected standards has grown, attendees are increasingly coming from far across the region to take advantage of the low-cost opportunity to embed the best approaches in their development plans.

Council leadership recognised in State framework

This year Townsville City Council was assessed against the Urban Water Stewardship Framework developed by the Queensland Government, and thanks in part to the success of its sediment and erosion control training, received an ‘Achieving Best Practice’ grade in the Developing Urban category — a jump up from the last assessment completed.

Council also received an ‘Above Best Practice’ for collaboration with industry and community to develop better capacity to manage stormwater runoff.

“We’re seeing Townsville get much more water-aware at many levels and the Urban Water Stewardship grades for Council shows we’re making our mark as a leading water-smart city,” Kara-Mae Coulter-Atkins, Executive Officer for the Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters, says.

“As Townsville grows, the need for sediment and erosion control will only become more critical for our waterway ecosystems and the Great Barrier Reef.”

In the management of ‘Established Urban’ water — managing pollutants in stormwater runoff from established urban areas — Council scored a ‘C’, showing room for improvement against the Framework.

“We’re constantly working to improve how we work with water in Townsville,” Cr Soars says. “It’s an area of focused continuous improvement.”

Townsville City Council is one of 20 organisations across the Dry Tropics who have come together to form the Dry Tropics Partnership for Healthy Waters — sharing data and knowledge to grow the collective awareness of best practices for our waterway environments.

Get more information about Townsville City Council’s Sediment and Erosion Control training here.

Learn more about the Urban Water Stewardship Framework and see more innovative Council initiatives for waterways in our Champions of the Bohle series.


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