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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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Mackay Whitsunday NRM region

The Mackay Whitsunday NRM spans 4 catchments and covers 906,224 hectares of which 503,572 hectares is mainly used for agricultural production. Mackay is the major urban centre of the region. Sugar cane growing and beef cattle grazing are the most common agricultural activities in each of the four catchments.

In the 2006 Census of Population and Housing 1,531 usual residents of the Mackay Whitsunday NRM region had a farmer and farm manager occupation related to the agricultural activities in this survey. Sugar cane growing was the occupation of 1,235 usual residents, beef cattle farming was the occupation of 226 usual residents, 41 usual residents had horticulture farming as their occupation and broadacre farming was the occupation for 29 usual residents.

LAND USE IN THE MACKAY WHITSUNDAY 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 (c)
Remainder of the area (d)
Hectares

Proserpine River
256 017
64 260
626
145 645
26 847
4 564
14 075
O'Connell River
236 875
36 498
358
132 118
19 970
8 492
39 439
Pioneer River
158 827
48 834
133
75 863
6 827
6 532
20 638
Plane Creek
254 504
28 082
302
149 947
19 825
4 099
52 249
Total Mackay Whitsunday NRM
906 223
177 675
1 419
503 573
73 469
23 687
126 401

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 son 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 Mackay Whitsunday NRM region


Proserpine River catchment

The Proserpine River catchment is located south of Bowen and occupies an area of 256,017 hectares. It is the most northern lying catchment within the Mackay Whitsunday NRM region with Proserpine being the major urban centre in the catchment. The Peter Faust Dam (Lake Proserpine) was specifically built to reduce the severity and frequency of flooding, particularly throughout agricultural land. Sugar cane growing (164 holdings) and beef cattle grazing (140 holdings) are the main agricultural activities along with some minor horticultural activity. Land mainly used for agricultural production (238 holdings) covers 57% of the catchment with 25% of the catchment occupied by state forests and reserves.

Some of the most common water run-off management practices in the catchment included the use of recycling pits or sediment dams (38%) maintaining at least forty percent ground cover in riparian areas and/or constructed waterways (32%) and using grassed or rubble spoon drains (39%).

Significant amounts of fertiliser were used in all catchments in the Mackay Whitsunday NRM region, with 64,426 tonnes of fertiliser applied in this catchment, including 42,843 tonnes of mill mud/ash.

In this catchment, 74% of holdings growing sugar cane irrigated all or part of the holding, while soil testing for nutrients was undertaken in 58% of holdings. Of those who tested soils (58%), 85% conducted the testing prior to planting.

Stock access to riparian areas was actively controlled by 25% of holdings keeping beef cattle.


O'Connell River catchment

The O'Connell River catchment is located just north of Mackay with a total area of 236,875 hectares. Sugar cane growing (287 holdings) and beef cattle grazing (289 holdings) are the dominant agricultural activities. Land mainly used for agricultural production (455 holdings) covers 56% of the catchment with a large portion of land particularly on the western side of the catchment consisting of state forests.
Farm layout was changed to meet industry best practice in 37% of holdings across the catchment. The most common surface water run-off management practices undertaken in the catchment included maintaining at least forty percent ground cover on paddocks at the end of the 2008 dry season (44%), using grassed or rubble spoon drains (40%), and using contour banks, diversion banks or constructed waterways (35%). Holdings in this catchment used 46,892 tonnes of dunder and 43,899 tonnes of mill mud/ash.

Trash (crop residue) was left untouched in 93% of holdings growing sugar cane.

Nearly half (49%) of holdings keeping beef cattle practised rotational or cell grazing on the land.


Pioneer River catchment

The Pioneer River catchment is a small catchment (158,827 hectares) located west of Mackay. The Pioneer River flows in an easterly direction from the ranges and eventually discharges into the Coral Sea at Mackay. National parks and state forests cover much of the steep western edge of the catchment, with agricultural activity concentrated on the flatter plains. Sugar cane growing (326 holdings) and beef cattle grazing (186 holdings) were the main agricultural activities. Just under half of the area of the catchment (48%) is land mainly used for agricultural production (424 holdings).

Holdings in this catchment reported applying significant amounts of fertiliser, particularly mill mud/ash (88,214 tonnes) and dunder (43,210 tonnes). The most common water run-off management practice across the catchment was the use of grassed or rubble spoon drains (60%).

In this catchment 50% of holdings growing sugar cane undertook soil testing for nutrients. Factors commonly considered prior to determining fertiliser application rates included nutrient loss from previous crops (55%), nutrients introduced by fertilising (50%) and nutrient credits obtained from legumes and other nitrogen producing fallow crops (26%). Latest industry recommended rates (67%) and consultant's and/or contractor's recommendations (52%) were external factors also commonly considered in determining application rates.

Stock access to riparian areas was actively controlled by 40% of holdings keeping beef cattle.


Plane Creek catchment

The Plane Creek catchment (254,504 hectares) runs south from Mackay, occupying a narrow coastal plain. Sugar cane growing (544 holdings) and beef cattle grazing (417 holdings) were the main agricultural activities with minor broadacre cropping and horticultural activity present. Land mainly used for agricultural production (822 holdings) covers 59% of the catchment with state forests and reserves occupying 11% of the catchment.

Holdings growing sugar cane covered 86,811 hectares of land throughout the catchment, while holdings keeping beef cattle occupied 108,579 hectares of land. Grazing on improved pastures accounted for 35% of total grazing land (91,537 hectares) within the catchment. Rotational or cell grazing was implemented in 59% of holdings keeping beef cattle, with 55% reporting that destocking/stocking was undertaken according to climate and pasture condition. Planted or managed (improved or native) pastures lasting for 2 years or more was practised by 62% of holdings keeping beef cattle.

In this catchment 66% of holdings growing sugar cane irrigated between July 2008 and June 2009. Of those who irrigated, laser levelling (56%), efficient irrigation equipment (69%) and tail water reuse (43%) were the most commonly used irrigation water management practices.



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