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Caboolture River rehabilitation project welcomed by First Nations groups

In a move to increase biodiversity and fish habitat while stabilising 2.4 kilometres of eroding riverbank, work will take place at nine sites along the Caboolture River over the next two years.

Key stakeholders including Unitywater, construction partner Healthy Land & Water and Kabi Kabi representatives gathered last month to break ground on what will be one of Australia’s largest nutrient offsetting river rehabilitation projects in an estuarine environment. 

Unitywater Executive Manager Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions Daniel Lambert said the $8 million project was both culturally and environmentally significant as the site was located beside heritage listed areas, such as the Morayfield Plantation remains. 

“In the process of planning this project, we’ve worked to understand the heritage of the site – its significance to First Nations peoples for thousands of years and the Morayfield Plantation that was located here,” Mr Lambert said. “We have indigenous and non-indigenous monitors working with us on this project to ensure we protect the cultural heritage of the region. Our teams have processes in place should they make any discoveries.”

Kabi Kabi Spokesperson Kerry Jones said the whole of the Caboolture River was a cultural site. 

“You could be coming across stone tools, shell middens, potentially scar trees,” he said. “These river systems have been such a great resource for our people for thousands of years. Years ago, there was no protection around Aboriginal cultural heritage. Today, we’ve got protection and it’s important we leave (any items of significance) on Country.”

The project will see more than 30,000 seedlings planted, 1.6 tonne of nutrients offset per year and 34 tonnes of carbon offset per year from Unitywater’s Burpengary East wastewater treatment plant. 

Healthy Land & Water Chief Operational Officer Andrew O’Neill said the project was important for the whole region as it helped tackle erosion and offset nutrients while at the same time creating resilience against disaster-scale flooding.

“The works will improve water quality, biodiversity, promote aquatic ecosystem health, as well as terrestrial habitat for wildlife and regeneration of riparian vegetation,” Dr O’Neill said. “The program sites have been selected because these factors have generated substantial erosion in the river. Re-establishing mangroves and other vegetation, as well as stabilising the banks, is critical to protecting these sensitive areas.”

Archaeologist Christopher van der Westhuizen said there was still evidence of the site’s history present today.

“There’s the remains of the main homestead which have some features like the brick-lined well, but you also have the potential to find an old rum distillery that they had here and a wharf where they shipped goods in and out to Brisbane,” he said.

Mr Lambert said the population growth in the area would put pressure on the environment and on wastewater infrastructure. 

“This project will provide offsets for the equivalent of an additional load on our Burpengary East wastewater treatment plant of 5500 people,” he said.  “Offsetting nutrients is one way we are working to reduce our operating footprint.”

Fast facts

  • 9 sites along 2.4km of riverbank

  • 22,000 cubic metres of excavation

  • 300 logs used to protect the bank

  • 21,000 tubestock

  • 4500 mangrove propagules collected and planted

  • 10,000 plants translocated

  • 3000 Biodegradable Ecosystem Engineered Elements (BESE)

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