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4619.0.55.001 - Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments, Final, 2008-09  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/04/2010  First Issue
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Burdekin NRM region

The Burdekin NRM region spans 5 catchments and covers 14.1 million hectares of which 12.2 million is mainly used for agricultural production. Townsville is the major urban centre in the region, with several other large towns along the coast. The coastal strip also features significant levels of sugar cane production, some beef cattle grazing and horticulture activity. Inland, towards the Great Dividing Range, most of the land area is used for beef cattle grazing. Over half (57%) of the holdings in the Burdekin NRM region reported keeping beef cattle, 38% reported growing sugar cane, 11% were engaged in horticulture and less than 6% reported growing broadacre crops.

In the 2006 Census of Population and Housing 2,109 usual residents of the Burdekin NRM region reported a farmer and farm manager occupation related to the inscope survey activity of the Land Management Practices survey. Sugar cane growing was the occupation of 760 usual residents, beef cattle farming was the occupation of 961 usual residents, 290 usual residents had horticulture farming as their occupation and broadacre farming was the occupation of 98 usual residents.

LAND USE IN THE BURDEKIN NRM REGION
AREA OF HOLDINGS (a)
Total catchment area
National parks, State forests and conservation parks
Recreational parks and reserves
Land mainly used for agricultural production
Land area not used for agricultural production
(b)
Urban areas (b)
Remainder of the area (c)
Hectares

Black River
105 684
31 721
490
21 414
2 764
3 516
45 779
Ross River
135 233
15 299
95
50 226
6 134
21 426
42 052
Haughton River
436 313
59 198
112
320 683
11 886
4 364
40 070
Burdekin River
13 046 134
300 852
19 188
11 546 981
557 053
7 849
614 211
Don River
358 125
10 644
416
297 742
17 842
1 911
29 570
Total Burdekin NRM
14 081 489
417 714
20 301
12 237 046
595 679
39 067
771 682

Source: Land Management Practices in the Great Barrier Reef Catchments, 2008-09 (cat. no. 4619.0.55.001) and Greenspace areas calculated from mapping data supplied by PSMA.

(a) Area of holdings inscope of the survey.
(b) Includes land set aside on the holding for conservation/protection purposes as well as other areas on agricultural holdings not used for agricultural production (houses and buildings, services and access areas, water bodies, mining leases where the lease area cannot be used for agriculture and any other agriculturally unproductive area or inaccessible areas).
(c) The urban areas are as defined by the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. In some cases urban areas cross catchment boundaries. Where this occurs the urban area is classified as being in the catchment where most of the urban area lies.
(d) Includes infrastructure (roads, bridges, service easements etc) and water features (dams, rivers etc) as well as any land not covered by the scope of the Land Management Practices Survey 2008-09.



Catchments within the Burdekin NRM region

Black River catchment

The Black River catchment is a small catchment (105,684 hectares) just north of Townsville. Land mainly used for agricultural production (36 holdings) covers a relatively small proportion of the land area (20%) with State forests and protected areas occupying a significant portion of the catchment. There were only 36 agricultural holdings in the catchment with beef cattle grazing (24 holdings) the primary agricultural activity. The total area grazed was 19,655 hectares, of which 2,538 hectares was grazing on improved pastures.

In this catchment, 46% of holdings ensured at least forty percent ground cover remained on paddocks at the end of the 2008 dry season (October - November 2008). Just over one third (34%) of holdings actively controlled stock access to riparian areas.

A significant number of holdings engaged in horticulture used alternate control methods for weeds, pests or diseases, with 76% practising good farm hygiene and 24% utilising biological controls by introducing parasites, predators or pathogens as control methods. Vegetables were grown on 29% (89 hectares) and fruits, berries or nuts grown on 71% (222 hectares) of the 311 hectares of used for horticulture in this catchment.

Factors considered in determining fertiliser application rates in holdings growing sugar cane included nutrient loss from previous crops (68%) and nutrient credits obtained from legumes and other nitrogen producing fallow crops (34%).


Ross River catchment

The Ross River catchment is a small catchment (135,233 hectares), with a significant proportion covered by the city of Townsville, which has an estimated population of 175,542 people (as at June 2008). The major water source for Townsville is the Ross River Dam. Land mainly used for agricultural production makes up 37% of the catchment, with 43 agricultural holdings, almost all of which grazed beef cattle (41 holdings). Throughout the catchment 5,544 hectares of agricultural land was set aside for conservation/protection purposes, representing 4% of the entire catchment area.

Over half (52%) of the holdings keeping beef cattle undertook destocking/stocking according to climate and pasture condition. Cattle condition was considered by 49% of the holdings when determining stocking rates. Rotational or cell grazing was practised by 27% of holdings keeping beef cattle. Cattle were grazed over 49,672 hectares with only a small amount, (9,968 hectares) being on improved pastures. Most holdings had no rivers or creeks and consequently reported low prevalence for riparian management practices.

A total of 169 hectares of land was sown in holdings engaged in horticulture with fruit, berries or nuts accounting for the majority (91%) of area sown.


Haughton River catchment

The Haughton River catchment lies immediately south-east of the Townsville urban area occupying 436,313 hectares. The headwaters begin in the Hervey Range and in times of heavy rain can cause rapid major flooding to agricultural, commercial and residential land, particularly around the Giru area. Land mainly used for agricultural production (481 holdings) makes up 74% of the catchment, with sugar cane growing (354 holdings) and beef cattle grazing (144 holdings) the dominant activities, though both horticulture and broadacre cropping are also present.

High rates of surface water run-off management practices were reported by all holdings, in particular, the proportion of holdings using furrow management to manage surface water run-off (59%) was much higher than in any other catchment in the survey.

Over half (54%) of all holdings used chemicals considered to be more environmentally friendly as well as other alternate control methods for weeds, pests or diseases.This included practising good farm hygiene (51%) and cultivating land using mechanical means (58%).

Irrigation was a common practice throughout all holdings in the catchment with 76% of all holdings reporting they irrigated during 2008-09. In particular, those growing sugar cane utilised various irrigation water management practices to increase water efficiency, which included laser levelling (81%), water piping or channel covering (54%), and the reuse of tail water (49%).

Of the holdings growing sugar cane in the 28 catchments, the Haughton River catchment, together with the adjacent Burdekin River catchment, were the only catchments to report significant rates of hot burning for trash management, with 66% of holdings growing sugar cane in the Haughton River catchment reporting this practice. A total of 38,107 hectares was hot burned in this catchment, whereas most of the other cane growing catchments reported hot burning over areas that were less than 2,000 hectares. Of the land management practices applied by holdings growing sugar cane, GPS guided steering technology (72%) and permanent or preformed beds (41%) were the most commonly used practices.


Burdekin River catchment

The Burdekin River catchment covers over 13 million hectares and is the second largest catchment draining into the Great Barrier Reef after the Fitzroy River catchment. The Burdekin River is one of Australia's largest rivers as measured by volume of flow. Its source is in the Seaview and Gorge Ranges and it discharges into the Pacific Ocean between Ayr and Home Hill. Lake Dalrymple is a feature of the catchment. The lake was formed as a result of the Burdekin Falls Dam being completed in 1987 and is one of the largest dams in Queensland (1,860,000 megalitre capacity). Land mainly used for agricultural production (932 holdings) makes up 89% of the catchment. Sugar cane growing (932 holdings) and beef cattle grazing (660 holdings) are the most common agricultural activities, with some broadacre cropping also present.

Considering the area of the catchment and the number of holdings reporting sugar cane production, fertiliser application was relatively low. In particular, less mill mud/ash (14,700 tonnes) and chemical fertiliser (12,086 tonnes) were used when compared to catchments with similar amounts of cane growing activity. The use of animal manure (12,100 tonnes), was more common than in other catchments.

The Burdekin River catchment, and the adjacent Haughton River catchment, were the only catchments in the survey to report significant rates of hot burning for trash management. A total of 15,716 hectares of sugar cane was hot burned in this catchment, with 63% of holdings growing sugar reporting the hot burning of trash. Furrow management (including banking ends, ripping and modifying furrow shapes) was the most commonly utilised (67%) water run-off management practice by holdings growing sugar cane.

Holdings keeping beef cattle undertook destocking/stocking according to climate and pasture condition in 76% of responses. Also, stock access to riparian areas was actively controlled in 35% beef cattle holdings in order to prevent or minimise damage to riparian zones.


Don River catchment

The Don River catchment is the southern most catchment in the Burdekin NRM region and covers an area of 358,125 hectares. Bowen, which is near the mouth of the Don River, is the largest shire in the catchment with an estimated resident population of 13,142 persons (as at June 2006). Land mainly used for agricultural production (212 holdings) covers 83% of the catchment with state forests occupying a minimal amount of land. Horticulture (126 holdings) and beef cattle grazing (108 holdings) are the main activities. The horticultural area sown for vegetables (4,880 hectares) is the largest area of all survey catchments.

In this catchment, 24% of all holdings actively controlled stock access to riparian areas in order to prevent or reduce damage to riparian zones. Chemicals were reportedly used by 72% of all holdings across the catchment. Of those who used chemicals, targeted application methods (spot spraying, shielded spraying and bonding) were the most commonly used techniques (91%), while good farm hygiene was practised by 43% of holdings with 39% using chemicals they considered to be more environmentally friendly.

Horticultural activity occupied 9% (26,996 hectares) of agricultural land used throughout the catchment while in comparison, beef cattle occupied 82% of agricultural land (291,850 hectares). Grazing on improved pastures covered 55,074 hectares of land. In this catchment, 58% of holdings reporting horticultural activity used alternate or cover crops, 40% reported having wheel spacing matching row spacing for all equipment, and 32% reported using permanent traffic lanes.





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