Spotlight on fire

The nation’s focus on fire has been brought to the fore, following the devastation of the bushfires which ravaged large areas across South East Queensland and eastern Australia over the 2019-20 period.

"During the crisis, Healthy Land and Water played a critical role in providing regular updates to our local governments and stakeholders, with staff also responding to and assisting in several disaster response situations across the region.  The technical assessments provided by Healthy Land and Water during and following the fire events have been very well received by our stakeholder network.  Following the crisis, the demand for information to better prepare for future fire seasons continues to be strong."

- Julie McLellan, Healthy Land and Water, CEO

Healthy Land and Water continues to focus on the fire response through ongoing engagement and collaboration with government agencies, stakeholders, and communities to prioritise recovery activities, planning, and mitigation initiatives to build landscape and community resilience. Many of our recommendations to government have been supported and we look forward to making further announcements during the coming year regarding implementation.
The resources and services, including sought-after community fire information events, fire management planning workshops, training, resources, and research support continues to be provided by Healthy Land and Water, through the Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium (QFBC), which is increasingly being recognised as a premier non-government organisation for progressing effective fire management outcomes across the State.

Strong demand for awareness and capacity building workshops

The Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium continues to increase the awareness and capacity of private landholders and public land managers in the role of fire in the Australian bush, fire management planning, and the use of fire as a land management tool.

Private landholders, public land managers and other stakeholders require tools and support to enable them to balance fire safety, property productivity and land management with biodiversity conservation. Fire management planning is a tool that landholders can use to reduce bushfire risk, improve property resilience and ecosystem health.  

The Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium’s combined Fire Information nights and Fire Management Planning workshops are a flagship service, aimed at increasing the understanding and resilience of private landholders in better preparing for the risk of fire. Workshops are specifically designed for private landholders and delivered in partnership with local government, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES), and other key stakeholders, including Traditional Owners, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Powerlink, the Department of Transport and Main Roads and Seqwater.  

The workshops assist landholders to reduce the threat of bushfires to life and assets on their property, while protecting and enhancing native ecosystems and with considerations for primary production. Workshop topics include the role of fire in the landscape, recommended fire regimes, plant and animal responses to fire, fire and soil erosion, fire trails and mitigation zones, fire preparedness and mapping. On completion of a workshop, landholders will have developed a fire management map and action plan tailored to their individual property, priorities (i.e. primary production and/or conservation) and circumstance.

In the 2019/20 year, the Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium delivered 12 Fire Information nights and Fire Management Planning workshops, engaging over 650 participants, in partnership with over 14 organisations and in seven different local government areas. Further planned events were postponed due to COVID-19 government restrictions.

Unique approach

Healthy Land and Water, through the Consortium’s distinctive collaborative approach, empowers landholders to prioritise their actions for fire management with property and biodiversity values and improve resilience within the community. A resilient community is one that is understood and provided with opportunities to participate and collaborate with neighbours and key government departments.

"Healthy Land and Water and the Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium have been empowering communities to better balance bushfire risk with land management and biodiversity outcomes for over 20 years."

- Sam Lloyd, Manager – Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium


Healthy Land and Water, through the Consortium’s distinctive collaborative approach, empowers landholders to prioritise their actions for fire management with property and biodiversity values and improve resilience within the community. A resilient community is one that is understood and provided with opportunities to participate and collaborate with neighbours and key government departments.


We conducted a short survey which revealed the most common reasons preventing workshop attendees from conducting fire management actions on their property. The leading reasons given were lack of relevant or adequate knowledge (62.5%) and lack of relevant or adequate skills (41.7%).

Figure 1: Survey responses - reasons landholders identified as restricting their ability to conduct fire management actions on their property, including prescribed burning.



Spotlight on working in support of First Nations and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders


"Healthy Land and Water remains firmly committed to striving to improve our understanding and empowerment of First Nation communities."

- Joel Bolzenius, Strategic Partnerships Manager

Healthy Land and Water has been fortunate to be involved in a wide range of First Nations focused initiatives. Some of the highlight activities over the year included:

  • Supporting Traditional Owners in several areas of South East Queensland in responding to the 2019 fire events and ensuring that cultural heritage and First Nation priorities were given due consideration within recovery efforts.

  • Assisting the continued Traditional Owner led expansion of protected areas on Minjerribah which has increased from 2% of the Island in 2011 to the current extent of conservation areas which cover over 50% of the Island.  In 2019, further planning was released for the full extent of National Park expansion which is planned to cover 80% of the Island.

  • Cultural heritage value recording and surveys have been critical in informing Kabi Kabi aspirations for Country and shellfish reef restoration activities in particular.

  • 2019 saw the end of large-scale sand mining on Minjerribah and Healthy Land and Water has been privileged to support the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation in negotiating with Mining Companies and Government to enable the Quandamooka People to play the lead role in the rehabilitation and restoration of Country.

  • The reinstatement of cultural burning and landscape management practices has been increasingly occurring in many parts of the region and Healthy Land and Water along with the Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium has supported planning activities, fire management trials, and the implementation of broadscale cultural burning practices being led by Traditional Owners.

  • Koala Conservation is actively being led by Traditional Owners in many parts of South East Queensland in line with recommendations made by the Queensland Koala Expert Panel and Healthy Land and Water has worked to support the empowerment of First Nations people in this space.

  • There is greater coverage of cultural heritage bodies and Native Title applicants in South East Queensland than ever before and Healthy Land and Water is striving to provide opportunities for these parties to participate in project activities and decision-making processes as well as educating other stakeholders on requirements for Traditional Owner collaboration.

  • Healthy Land and Water is continuing to pursue options to reinvigorate cultural resource management planning that has been undertaken by Traditional Owners and has been working with the Queensland Government to identify opportunities to update and deliver on these aspirations.

  • Healthy Land and Water is working to redress past displacement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from the natural resource management sector by providing prioritised employment and procurement pathways. This has included working with natural resource management groups across Queensland to have these practices adopted state-wide and aligned with the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Spotlight on Offsets

During the 2019-2020 period, Healthy Land and Water delivered strong results with our new environmental offsets initiative.

By the end of the year, environmental offsets and associated projects had made a significant contribution to Healthy Land and Water's 'Community Natural Asset Investment Reserve' and had made a significant contribution to the environmental health of South East Queensland.

To date, the environmental offsets team has secured nine contracts. Six are for professional services and three are for on-ground works, including:

  • Cedar Grove WWTP nutrient offset on the Logan River
  • Bellemere nutrient offset on the Caboolture River
  • Urban Utilities Laidley Creek site maintenance

Cedar Grove was a large-scale project that despite significant challenges, Healthy Land and Water was pleased to deliver a great outcome that will assist in meeting regulatory requirements and stabilise a significant section of the Logan River. This was achieved in a compressed timeframe due to the client's regulatory deadlines, with the additional challenge of the work being undertaken during the heat and drought of late 2019, followed by a significant flow event that covered the project site.


"Professional services work has continued throughout the year, primarily focused on developing and applying a Nutrient Offset portfolio development process which enables clients to meet assurance that future projects are in the best location and represent value for money"

- Scott Jose, General Manager - Environmental Offsets

This process integrates Healthy Land and Water’s unique GIS capabilities, unmatched on-ground local catchment knowledge, robust project development processes and client needs by way of a custom multifaceted portfolio evaluation matrix.

Next year will see a focus on diversification, with works having commenced in the field to support use of wetlands for nutrient offsets and consideration of land management practice change for consideration in nutrient abatement.

Healthy Land and Water is also aiming to progress leadership and action on pollutant loads across South East Queensland with our Integrated Nutrient Management methodology, in conjunction with our utility, local and state government partners.  This methodology is based on scenario planning to answer the questions of why, how and what in forward planning for South East Queensland's impacts and needs.


Spotlight on Water by Design: sustainable urban water management

In 2004 and 2005, the Ecosystem Health Monitoring Program highlighted ‘diffuse source pollutant loads’ as having major impacts affecting water quality in the Moreton Bay region. To address this, Healthy Land and Water developed the well-respected initiative ‘Water by Design’ to support sustainable urban water management.


"In order to protect, restore and rehabilitate our urban waterways, the programs innovative and collaborative approach works across a wide diversity of stakeholders and communities to effectively build the capacity of water practitioners across the State to together deliver best practice sustainable urban water management outcomes."

- Rachael Nasplezes, Healthy Land and Water, Team Leader Water by Design


In order to protect, restore and rehabilitate the natural water cycle, the program effectively and efficiently delivers sustainable water management outcomes across the State.

The Water by Design program aims to deliver:

  • Improved skills and knowledge via a comprehensive suite of best-practice decision support guidelines and resources and capacity building programs.
  • A strengthened organisation capacity with forums for industry practitioners and government officers to foster collaboration, information sharing and positive development outcomes.
  • Guided regulatory reforms such as flexible arrangements for stormwater management, providing cost savings and benchmarking protection targets.
  • Increased incentives and encouragement for the community in the form of case studies, factsheets, and co-design projects.
  • Exemplar water sensitive urban design projects delivered across the State that demonstrate innovative and emerging approaches in sustainable urban water management.

The Water by Design initiative delivers a large portfolio of deliverables for South East Queensland each year. The work of the program is well-respected and sought-after, not only in South East Queensland, but by other organisations across the State, which benefit from the services of Healthy Land and Water's Water by Design team in delivering tailored programs in other catchments. We've profiled a small selection of just some of the many Water by Design activities that were rolled out during the year below.   

We've profiled a small selection of just some of the many Water by Design activities that were rolled out during the year below.

On the ground | Ferguson Park

The Ferguson Park upgrade is a project to enhance a section of Sandy Creek that flows through Ferguson Park, located between the Gaythorne and Enoggera train stations, in Enoggera.
The project, which commenced in 2019, is supported by the Australian Government and Brisbane City Council and seeks to improve the waterway values for Sandy Creek. Stormwater and urban runoff from Gizeh Street will be filtered via a new planted swale in Ferguson Park. The swale has been designed to mimic natural systems and their ability to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase rainwater infiltration. Using a co-design approach this project has been developed in consultation with the local community, who, through the project have developed a local network who will work with the Kedron Brook Catchment Branch and Brisbane City Council, consisting of local residents who would like to care and nourish the creek into the future.

Healthy Land and Water believes that supporting communities to develop an emotional connection with their local waterways is crucial in protecting the health of South East Queensland’s waterways.

Capacity Building | Reef training day - Hervey Bay

In the 2019-2020 financial year, the Water by Design team undertook numerous activities to improve council and industry capacity in coastal urban centres within South East Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef region. These included running workshops and capacity building events, developing online resources, and providing support for the industry.

For the period between July 2019 and June 2020, Water by Design has delivered:

  • 4 Community of Practice events
  • 5 embedding activities
  • 2 supporting Regional Organisation of Council activities to update their Development Manuals and provide best practice USW and ESC materials to reference
  • 6 digital roadshow training events
  • 5 capacity building videos
  • 5 capacity building training workshops
  • 2 co-design process workshops and support

Resources | Online training portal

Water by Design continues to apply its fundamental principles of current best practice through innovation by developing an online learning portal to support their communities of practice during and post COVID-19. The online portal was developed by Healthy Land and Water as a response to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 with funds reallocated toward delivery of four targeted training workshops delivered through the online training portal.

Four courses were prioritised as a training suite for the online portal and designed and developed for delivery: CoDesign, Strategic Waterways, Living Waterways and SPP Review Blueprint.

Blueprint for improving waterway management

The Water by Design team has continued the investigation into the State Planning Policy and the Stormwater Management Design Objectives and has drafted a blueprint for improving the management of our waterways. This blueprint has been developed in consultation with key sectors of the stormwater industry including councils, consultants and industry associations. The document proposes 12 strategies across three themes: Protect, Maintain and Enhance. This paper was sponsored by the Department of Environment and Science and is for discussion purposes only.


Spotlight on River Symposium


22nd International River Symposium, 20-24 October 2019, Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre


Healthy Land and Water – Gold Partner

Healthy Land and Water was proud to be a Gold Partner for the 22nd International River Symposium held in Brisbane. As a key member of the global network of experts and practitioners, our team contributed throughout the five-day program, connecting, knowledge and idea sharing, leveraging, and learning around all aspects of river and water management.

The theme “Resilient Rivers” was chosen to recognise the urgent need to build the capacity of our rivers, communities, and industries to quickly recover from extreme events, such as droughts and floods, and return to a healthy state, ensuring social and economic prosperity.  

Working with other partners including the Australian and Queensland Governments, Brisbane City Council, and Griffith University, we were able to add significantly to the program through our local knowledge and international networks, demonstrating our leadership in building flood and drought resilience.  


Resilient Rivers Blueprint

Healthy Land and Water was invited by the International River Foundation to participate as a Founding Partner in the Resilient Rivers Blueprint which was launched at the Symposium. This journey to achieve resilience of our rivers in light of global change is a high priority and drives commitment from communities of practice all around the world to delivering best practice river systems management.

  • Key member of Resilient Rivers initiative in South East Queensland. Opportunity to take learnings and foster outcomes on global scale.
  • Opportunity to learn from others and bring knowledge and new learnings to South East Queensland to improve our own practices.
  • Healthy Land and Water recognises that building resilience in our natural assets has merit and has produced exceptional outcomes.
  • Opportunities to learn about and adopt new financial models for new investment in natural asset resilience and infrastructure 
  • Opportunity to enhance modelling techniques
  • The Resilient Rivers Blueprint will strengthen the delivery of the NRM Plan.


River Expo

Healthy Land and Water had a major presence in the River Expo with the team on hand to meet and network with delegates throughout the event.


Welcome Reception

As a Gold Partner we were proud to sponsor the Welcome Reception held in the River Expo on the first evening of the Symposium. This was an opportunity to welcome guests and highlight the release of Report Card 2019, with the official launch held the next day.

Learn-Inspire-Transform (LIT) Session

Community co-design – building sustainable communities

Too many times we see urban design solutions imposed upon local communities that are ill fitting; developed without an understanding of how a community uses and values their local place.  Such designs are doomed to failure as they miss a critical piece of the design puzzle – who are the people who will use and value this place into the future and how and where are their needs captured?

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world”

– Margaret Mead

Healthy Land and Water has integrated a co-design process to deliver both environmental and social outcomes for local communities in Queensland. In the session, Rachael Nasplezes, Senior Scientist/Lead Water by Design and Dr Andrew O’Neill, General Manager Environmental Services took participants through a ‘virtual’ co-design process using a case study based off a Brisbane urban creek renewal project. Participants emerged with a deeper understanding of what co-design is, how to facilitate the process and what outcomes can be expected.

The Healthy Land and Water team featured throughout the program presenting and chairing sessions:

  • Evaluating the success of past strategies: why looking to the past is critical for future catchment, Dr Paul Maxwell
  • Resilience safe recreation in South East Queensland waterways, Naomi Soutsal
  • Policy on the run – what the books don’t teach you, Dr Andrew O’Neill
  • Implementing an offset: more than a mass balance equation, Ross Bigwood
  • Communities working together to build resilience in their place, Rachael Nasplezes
  • Loving our waterways too much? Monitoring waterway condition and social benefits in South East Queensland, Emily Saeck
  • Managing weeds of national significance for better drinking water, Dennis Gannaway
  • Meet the pollutants: spreading the word about waterway pollution, Glenn Browning

Healthy Land and Water Study Tour

Enoggera Creek: A pulse of Brisbane Life

Leading scientists, community advocates, historians and traditional owners led a group of delegates on a day study tour to explore the cultural, economic, social and environmental history of Enoggera Creek and the Brisbane River over 200 years and how the impacts of a legacy of poor environmental management on the bay are driving us to change what we are doing to improve the situation. Visiting the upper Enoggera Creek and the Enoggera reservoir, delegates heard from water supply catchment managers and community groups that have restored entire sections of creek. It was then onto Three Mile Scrub, a recently completed open space project in the mid Enoggera Creek, where community-led design has re-invigorated a section of the creek. Finishing at historic Newstead house, Brisbane’s oldest home located where Enoggera Creek flows into the Brisbane River.