A sudden land-use change and distinctive local environmental constraints have inspired collective and ambitious stewardship of the Maroochy River estuary and its floodplain, building resilience to major impacts predicted from sea level rise.
Approximately 5000 hectares of the floodplain of the Maroochy River, in South-East Queensland, Australia, was dominated by sugarcane farming until the local mill closed in 2003. Given its predisposition to regular and deep flooding, neither urban development nor another widespread agricultural use is considered viable. And by 2100, much of the area is projected to be inundated by seawater.
In 2019, a partnership was launched between Sunshine Coast Council, the Queensland Government and Unitywater, to proactively work together to provide positive outcomes for our environment, community and economy.
While the project has a horizon of over eighty years, early achievements have been significant, including:
· acquiring further lands to secure approximately 1400ha of critical wetland and floodplain areas in public ownership and establish a living laboratory for research and trials
· inundating 190ha of former canelands to establish a new tidal wetland and improve local water quality
· supporting the natural evolution of 90ha of tidal wetlands at another former caneland site
· undertaking studies and initiating pilot projects for carbon and environmental offsets, to unlock new economic opportunities for rural landowners
· initiating research into ecological and carbon outcomes in the transitioning landscape
· establishing robust inter-agency governance arrangements and addressing early priorities under an inaugural five-year implementation plan.
At this turning of the tide, we are preserving the bounties of the river and floodplain for our community now and into the future. We are building the platform to work with the coming changes to diversify and increase these benefits as the waters rise.