Plan to save Great Barrier Reef from encroaching farm pollution

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By Alice Klein

The sky above is grey and drizzly, but the wetlands are still beautiful to behold. Flocks of magpie geese settle on the glassy water, honking and nibbling at bright green tufts of sedge.

I’m at Mungalla Station, a cattle property in far north Queensland. Here, a large-scale conservation project is underway. Its aim: to help save the Great Barrier Reef 20 kilometres away, out at sea.

The Great Barrier Reef is a World Heritage Site, and one that is known to be in dire trouble. The obvious threats are climate change and coral bleaching, both of which could kill swathes of the corals. But another major problem is agricultural run-off. About 10 million tonnes of sludge from farms wash onto the reef each year, smothering the coral, says Mungalla’s director Jacob Cassady.

Cassady is a member of the local Nywaigi people, who took over Mungalla when it was returned to them by the Indigenous Land Corporation in 1999. At that time, the property had been damaged by more than a century of cattle farming. Overgrazing had caused soil erosion, native vegetation had been cleared, and the wetlands along the coast were choked with invasive weeds.

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