More than 500 reef water quality ideas were gathered at the Wet Tropics Major Integrated Project (WTMIP) creativity workshops in Innisfail and Tully last month. This project is funded by the Queensland Government.
Terrain NRM’s CEO Carole Sweatman said the community's attendance, energy and participation demonstrates we are on our way to achieving a grass roots design driven by people in the Johnstone and Tully catchment areas.
"We're thrilled to have had such a high level of contribution by farmers and community members. It means local solutions that suit farmer circumstances. A critically important part of the project is the level of local buy-in. The workshops proved that we’re on the right track to getting the design foundation correct," she said.
Of the 212 attendees, 46 went to both the Johnstone and Tully workshops. Based on feedback from 84 per cent of participants, providing ideas and hearing ideas from others was the strongest motivation for workshop attendance.
"It was great to see so much talent in one room and the ideas that were discussed were very inspiring," said one participant.
Respondents were asked how they felt about the challenge of improving water quality in the catchments. Ms Sweatman says there was a positive and heartening shift in people's optimism towards this challenge.
"Prior to these workshops, 55 per cent of people felt optimistic about the water quality challenge. At workshop close, this had risen to 81%. When we break it down like this it’s easy to see that we can create actionable solutions.
"We're proud of the role the WTMIP has in empowering community driven design," Ms Sweatman said.
"Very few attendees felt that they have had any opportunities to influence water quality project design in the past. As a result of the workshops, we saw a significant rise in the number of participants feeling like they have been heard and contributed to a project that will have a positive impact.
"Everyone who attended the workshops or submitted ideas by other means, are part of the solutions. With the amount of knowledge and creativity in the room, how could we not create solutions?"
Ideas were wide-ranging. Common idea themes included soil health, new technologies including bioreactors and bioremediation, carbon and reef credit systems, systems repair and wetlands, incentives, extension, data and water monitoring, land use, and governance.
Johnstone River Catchment Management Association's Chair, Sam Pagano, is on the Wet Tropics MIP project panel. He said the next challenge is to get on with designing a program that will give the best outcomes in water quality.
"Obviously not everything can be done in one go, and there are no silver bullets in this complex situation. It will take time to deliver the result we're looking for, but it is encouraging to see the enthusiasm and the contribution that people have given."
A technical panel will now prioritise concepts for further development. Concept champions and partners will be identified to further develop ideas into project ideas, checking feasibility and cost effectiveness.
There will be two half-day solutions workshops in the Tully and Johnstone catchments in late April to provide a WTMIP update to partners and the broader community. The workshops will also enable input and refinement of the Draft Program Design. Keep 27 & 28 April free, and remember to follow @WTMIP on Facebook for locations and times.
The WTMIP is funded by the Queensland Government Office of the Great Barrier Reef. Terrain NRM is coordinating the project on behalf of the Wet Tropics Sugar Industry Partnership, Australian Banana Growers’ Council, Local Government, community groups, consultants, investors and researchers.
By Monica Haynes