Study spots lack of real QLD water data
Some areas of central Queensland have scored high on a new water quality report card, but that could be because they do not actually monitor water quality.
In fact, the Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership pilot report released this week showed there are vast areas in the Mackay-Whitsunday region with almost no monitoring of water quality and other environmental indicators.
The report is the first of its kind to be produced by a group of 28 industry and community stakeholders - from sectors including government, mining and ports, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, traditional owners and environmental and natural resources management groups - which was launched last year.
The report card is drawn from data collected in the Great Barrier Reef Report Card from last month, with the addition of more data from other monitoring sources and extra details on some specific locations.
It covered 18 locations across the Mackay-Whitsunday region, grading on at least nine key indicators at each.
Indicators included contaminants, nutrients and sediment in water, fish stocks, habitat, vegetation, seagrass, coral and wetlands.
But the authorities behind the report say it was greatly limited by big gaps in monitoring.
The Pioneer and Plane catchments – which serve major cane-growing areas - scored poorly, largely due to the presence of contaminants in the water.
But it is difficult to compare them with other locations that received much better scores - like Proserpine and the Don River area near Bowen – because the lack of water quality monitoring could have worked in their favour.
Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership chair Diane Tarte has told ABC reporters it is still an important document.
“It's important to identify those gaps and to be quite up front up about them, and then see what we can do about rectifying those gaps,” she said.
“My problem is, I think we actually have a lot of gaps and how quickly we can fill them all [will be important].
“I think there will still be grey [indicating “no available data”] on the next report card, but I would certainly hope that by the time we do two more report cards there won't be any grey on it.
“For this to have long-term validity as a long-term data set, we actually need to design and implement a regular monitoring regime across the board.”
The full report is accessible here.