It has been a whirlwind year of big issues and big deliverables. From responding to the devastation around the dreadful bushfire season to adjusting to the new conditions brought about by COVID-19, Healthy Land and Water has adapted quickly to deliver a raft of important projects for South East Queensland.
The overwhelmingly positive response of our regions to the immediate front-line reporting of the fire situation throughout the crisis by Healthy Land and Water was particularly pleasing. The regular reports prepared by our team for our network of stakeholders were well received and the information sharing post the fires to support better preparation for future fire seasons has been strong.
While this report focuses on the impressive action on so many fronts across the past 12 months, it is also timely to think about what we’ve achieved in the last two decades.
In just a short time frame we’ve seen enormous change, including the recognition and formation of initiatives which support landcare, water quality improvement, Indigenous participation, sustainable urban landscapes and environmental protection.
"I’m proud to recognise the active role Healthy Land and Water continues to play in delivering critical components for so many of these initiatives which have supported a healthier environment."
- Julie McLellan, Healthy Land and Water, CEO
At the same time Healthy Land and Water has been looking at how we can do things differently and more innovatively. It is a little-known fact that our Report Card is the system on which other Australian and global monitoring and reporting systems have subsequently been modelled. The success of our Report Card is the result of a huge amount of collaboration. It has contributed greatly to justifying billions of dollars of investment over the last two decades by government, industry and community, all focused on improving the health and integrity of our region’s waterways. Through the evolution and next iteration of the report card we hope to deliver an increased understanding of environments and the required on-ground action, planning, support and investment.
Past investments in catchment health are continuing to reap dividends. Some parts of Moreton Bay are reporting better conditions than at any other time in the last 20 years while there has also been some noticeable regeneration of vulnerable habitats, including seagrass, mangroves and vegetation in areas.
The broader benefits go way beyond this, including everything from improved biodiversity, commercial productivity and greater recreational opportunities. Additionally, the South East Queensland tourism market is increasingly being recognised on a national and global scale and we’re also seeing increased levels of protection for First Nations cultural values.
It’s important to celebrate our successes and to plan for the future. One of the reasons we have been able to make such big inroads and stay ahead of the curve in changing times is our integrated approach, recognising that as the ecosystem is always adapting to pressures and change, so must we.
Our plans to have a big public celebration with all our stakeholders to celebrate twenty years of positive impact for the region has been delayed by the gathering restrictions brought about by COVID-19. The opportunity is not lost, and Healthy Land and Water is committed to holding a large 21st birthday celebration of the Report Card and Healthy Land and Water’s integrated suite of initiatives for the region in 2021.
The strong population growth forecasted for South East Queensland in the coming decades will bring significant additional pressures. We also know that while science has not been able to fully determine the extent of what impacts the changing climate will bring, we know that whatever changes come our way will require a more resilient region and catchments to be able to deal with it. Accordingly, we must plan and take concerted action to protect and enhance our region if we are going to retain our enviable reputation as a great place to live, work and visit.
We believe that now is the time to enter a new phase of environmental reporting and investment that is more integrated. Just as all things in South Queensland’s ecosystem are connected, we are expanding out our Report Card beyond water to a broader ecosystem focus, in line with the priorities in our South East Queensland Natural Resource Management Plan (NRM Plan).
Healthy Land and Water will collaborate strongly on developing the new framework and reporting mechanism because first and foremost it must benefit the catchment’s needs. It must strengthen our environments and support the needs of our communities which make up the region.
As we approach two decades of the Report Card, we are also undertaking a strategic review of the NRM Plan. It is important to ensure that the priorities which underpin our direction are reflective of the changing needs of the environment and the community. We aim to respond to change and use the best available knowledge – and people – to continue to drive and inform investment in our natural assets.
The team continues to identify new opportunities for protecting and enhancing our regions resilience. Just one example of this is the significant investment in maintaining and enhancing riverbank vegetation to bind, hold and stabilise stream banks. Similar effort is also required towards our freshwater wetlands which have declined in extent and provide a biodiversity function, assist with flood mitigation and nutrient processing.
Our work is important for South East Queensland as it becomes increasingly recognised as Australia’s eastern gateway to international markets. Globally visible and competitive, South East Queensland is expected to grow its export share of the economy which will provide opportunities for new activity and skills.
While this Annual Report is testament to the skills, dedication and diversity of the Healthy Land and Water team, from my perspective it is the sum of the whole which truly helps each individual shine. Living our values of care, collaboration, courage, integrity and innovation has never been more evident than during this tough year. I’ve been pleased to see how we have pulled together and flourished as a team. There would not have been one team member who didn’t reach out to check on their colleagues and people in their broader stakeholder networks during lock down and offer support.
Each member of our team has adapted and collaborated to ensure we continue to deliver on our raft of on-ground projects. As demonstrated by some of the activities we shine a ‘spotlight’ on in this year’s Annual Report, the team continued to innovate and tackle problems and barriers head-on, to deliver the best results for our partners and our community. This is done in line with our science principles, which underpin the scientific integrity of all our projects.
Congratulations and thanks to our team and partners for continuing to go above and beyond to improve our ecosystems’ resilience and the collective work of our members and partners to champion and deliver on our vision for a sustainable South East Queensland. We are ready to tackle the year ahead.
"I’m proud of the work Healthy Land and Water champions in empowering South East Queensland to be a smart region that embraces real-time data, new digital and other advanced technologies that will improve our quality of life and reduce our ecological footprint."
- Julie McLellan, Healthy Land and Water, CEO