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  • Writer's pictureMagnetic Community News

Reef Assist Project attracts second round of funding

Pictured above: Ricinus communis (Caster Oil Plant)

An innovative environmental program helping to restore Townsville’s savanna landscapes and waterways has secured a new round of funding to help extend the program through to 2024.

The Reef Assist - Townsville Landscape Regeneration through First Nations Knowledge and Delivery project is focused on rehabilitating gully erosion, restoring catchment water quality and repairing native grasslands for wildlife.

This key project is essential for building business and industry capacity in natural resource management, whilst employing First Nations youth and other underemployed people and fostering work skills.

The project has recently received an additional $2 million in funding from the Queensland Government’s Queensland Reef Water Quality Program and is jointly funded by Townsville City Council.

Townsville City Council’s Community Health, Safety and Environmental Sustainability Committee chairperson Maurie Soars said the program had created a successful model for creating jobs, amplifying industry, healing soils and restoring key landscapes and waterways in Townsville.

“Through the previous round of Reef Assist 1.0 program funding, which started in late 2020, more than 250 tonnes of weeds were removed and converted into soil,” Cr Soars said.

“The first tranche of this funding helped to create 100 per cent continued employment for all 50 participants, 37 being First Nations people, as well as providing opportunities and experience for at-risk youth.

“For the work conducted during the past two years, the program has received an Environmental Excellence Award for Innovation and Education from the International Sediment and Erosion Control Association (IECA).

“This current round of work will carry on those restorative ecological projects, with a focus on low-cost and innovative techniques for sediment and erosion control, as well as tree plantings and native grass seed collection and dispersal, while creating meaningful employment opportunities for 25 people.”

Mayor Jenny Hill said the program was about building Townsville’s “Weeds to Healthy Soils” initiative, which builds and heals soils on-site, while avoiding the costs and impacts of transporting and disposing at landfill.

“Council continues to convert project weed resources and other inputs such as aquatic weeds into a high-quality soil product, to increase soil and vegetation health across the city,” Cr Hill said.

"We want to demonstrate to local businesses that there is an economically viable market for removing, recycling, and reusing weed resources that would otherwise go to landfill so we can drive a circular economy.

“Some local organisations have already been looking into capitalising on this opportunity and we expect to see that number continue to grow as we look at the potential of using weeds as a resource.”

Recent activity sites for this landscape restoration Reef Assist 1.0 project include the Bohle River near Cosgrove, removing Leucaena from the old quarry at Castle Hill, repairing in riverbank at Louisa Creek near Greg Jabs Drive at Garbutt, and multiple areas across Magnetic Island.

On Magnetic Island the project is run by MICDA who in 2021 - 22 recieved in excess of $415,000.

To learn more about Reef Assist, head to Council’s website.

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