Council road research to seal reef protection

Published: 15th July 2022

Queensland councils have stepped up to protect the Great Barrier Reef from silt washed from thousands of kilometres of unsealed country roads damaging the natural icon.

The innovative Cleaner Road Runoff research project has started monitoring unsealed roads and their impact on water quality at test sites in Whitsunday Regional Council and Gladstone Regional Council in a bid protect the Reef.

With an estimated average 25mm of road material washing off the top of 38,000km of unsealed roads in the Reef catchment every year, the project could have a massive impact on the health of the Reef as well as benefit the communities that cherish and rely on it, Local Government Association of Queensland CEO Alison Smith said.

“Councils – on behalf of their communities - continually demonstrate their commitment to protect the Reef,” Ms Smith said.

“This research will give us critical information to help advocate for funding to create cleaner road runoff to protect our Reef and better roads for communities.”

Fine sediments like those washed from unsealed roads and drains are one of the three greatest water quality risks to the Reef, reducing light to seagrass beds and inshore coral reefs.

The Cleaner Road Runoff project results are expected to form the basis of guidelines to improve road design and maintenance.

The program is now expanding with the Local Government Association of Queensland securing an additional $1 million of funding from the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF), extending the research until May 2024 and include another two reef catchment councils.

The LGAQ is now seeking two councils to join Gladstone and Whitsunday on the project, with expressions of interest open.

Gladstone Mayor Matt Burnett said councils know how important the Reef and roads are to their communities.

“This research will help us protect our globally-renowned Reef and better roads as well,” Mayor Burnett said.

Acting Whitsundays Mayor Mike Brunker said the research would be good for the Reef and local roads.

“Councils are the big road builders and fixers so it’s important we manage and minimise our road silt run off because it’s only going one place – the Reef,” Cr Brunker said.

“Keeping the road material where you put it is also good for our roads.”

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the LGAQ and local councils to expand the great work underway to improve Reef health through the innovative Cleaner Road Runoff project.

“The Reef needs strong partnerships like this, which bring together all levels of government and communities, to deliver the research, innovations and on-ground action we need to protect our Reef in this critical decade.”

Councils interested in taking part in the Cleaner Road Runoff project between August 2022 – May 2024 can please complete the expression of interest form by 29 July 2022 here.

The Cleaner Road Runoff Project is funded by the partnership between the Australian Government’s Reef Trust and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation with support from Griffith University, IPWEAQ, Department of Environment and Science, Office of the Great Barrier Reef, Bundaberg Regional Council, Whitsunday Regional Council and Gladstone Regional Council.

For more information contact Daniel Knowles, LGAQ Media Advisor