Case study - fish barrier prioritisation and remediation

Published: 29th October 2019

Mackay Regional Council (MRC) is leading practice in the adoption of ‘fish friendly’ approaches including the management of urban stormwater, remediation of natural waterways, the identification, prioritisation and remediation of fish barriers and coastal foreshore management. With an investment of over $8.5 million across almost 30 projects and maintenance programs, MRC is achieving improved water quality outcomes and native fish numbers.

In 2015, MRC and local NRM body (Reef Catchments) commissioned a Fish Barrier Prioritisation Report. Undertaken by Catchment Solutions, the report was developed through a similar methodology as proposed for the MIP and focussed on providing a full picture of fish barriers for the region which improved capacity amongst council staff in the identification and remediation of fish barriers. The process resulted in a prioritised list that is used to access funding through council budget processes to address high priority barriers.

The fish barrier prioritisation report identified 2,929 potential barriers to fish migration within the MRC local government area. As of July 2018, MRC has addressed 18 of its highest priority barriers with detailed planning undertaken for a further 3-4 barriers to be remediated by the end of the 2018/19 financial year. Projects delivered have seen significant improvement in fish movements. Recently, a record 31,000 fish in one day were sampled moving through the most downstream fishway at Mackay’s Gooseponds. This fishway is located right on the transition zone between freshwater and saltwater environments and enabling movement from the estuary to a freshwater safe-haven is critical to the survival of these fish. See media release.

MRC has also been active in changing the perception of stormwater drains and urban waterways across council, industry and the community. Urban drains and stormwater systems are potential fish habitats and have a significant connection to Reef health. The naturalisation of urban waterways though natural channel design, revegetation and weed control and community engagement associated with these projects are assisting in changing perceptions and providing water quality, ecosystem, amenity and social benefits.

MRC, as with other Reef councils are committed to improving practices. They are continuing to explore ways to improve environmental, social and economic outcomes through new ways of approaching traditional council business as usual. Funding and partnerships to trial new approaches is fundamental to achieving this and is most beneficial where councils work together to trial and share learnings and knowledge. Funding to assist in the cost of addressing legacy infrastructure in high priority, high impact locations is also important to improve outcomes for Reef health.