Last week I spent three days in Mackay participating in the Healthy Waterways Alliance Workshop and Symposium.  I had a really interesting time and became very aware of how living in the Murray-Darling Basin tends to obscure everything else going on in this big country of ours.  As we flew into Mackay I was astounded to see ship upon ship, all waiting for the opportunity to come into port and load up with coal.  Mackay is entering an interesting period of history with the relatively new coal industry expanding, and the traditional sugar and grazing industries adapting to changes in land and water management practices.  Socially this will be a testing time for the region, with a disparity in income and a demographic mix that will present challenges.  Environmentally, having that beautiful reef on your doorstep means that you are acutely aware of how our actions on land are impacting on this precious part of our planet.

I was heartened to meet such fabulous and committed people working on behalf of all of us to look after this part of Australia.  The presentations at the Symposium were high quality and ranged from fish passage, to log jams, sediment reduction approaches and reef research – I learnt so much.  The Beaconsfield Public School children who are “Reef Guardians” stole the show with their knowledge, concern and love for the reef shining through as they talked about the practical steps they have put in place to look after turtles, reduce sediment and pollution, and revegetate for biodiversity conservation.  I also enjoyed celebrating the achievements of local sugar growers who had put in place innovative practices to reduce their environmental impact.

I always feel privileged to be asked to go to someone’s ‘home patch’ and share the things I feel are important, and this trip added to my wealth of positive experiences working in Natural Resources Management.  Thank you Sal, Mel, Kerri, Claire and Rob for inviting me up to Reef Catchments, and an extra special thank you to the lovely Julie for looking after me so well.