Koinmerburra Ridge to Reef Restoration Project
By Di Lanyon
The Ridge to Reef Alliance connects First Nations Peoples with scientists to deliver whole-of-ecosystem restoration projects from the ridge line to the reef. The Alliance, led by Diane Lanyon (Ecosure General Manager), has partnered with Koinmerburra Aboriginal Corporation for the Koinmerburra Ridge to Reef Restoration Project. The projects aims to heal Land and Sea Country by integrating holistic restoration, capacity building and employment opportunities co-designed with the Koinjmal People. Koinmerburra Country is located along Central Queensland’s picturesque coastline, with the project focusing on Clairview and Wild Duck Island.
To understand project priorities, the Ridge to Reef Alliance collaborated with the Koinjmal People, Elders and the wider community in a ‘Walking the Landscape’ workshop. We shared knowledge about the landscape, land use, First Nations stories and aspirations for Country and People. Following the workshop, Alliance scientists and the Koinjmal People gathered information in the field including terrestrial vegetation, seagrass, marine ecosystem data, and Cultural Heritage aspects at Clairview and Wild Duck Island. The Clairview component of the field trip in mid May was plagued with unprecedented wet weather, but the team carried on and gained valuable insights for the project. High-quality pockets of littoral rainforest adorn Clairview beach, but the dune system requires restoration. There are also opportunities to improve the health of seagrass meadows in the bay with land-based restoration reducing run-off into the marine system. An unrecorded scar tree during the Cultural Heritage Assessments was recorded by the Koinjmal Elders.
We were blessed with perfect conditions for three days at Wild Duck Island in June, with stunning scenery from Stanage Bay through Broad Sound Islands National Park. Our team covered some serious ground on the 300+ hectare island and assessed the wetland, sections of rainforest, and degraded ecosystems where weeds are dominant. Large tides meant visibility for the coral and fish assessments in the marine environment was poor. However, seagrass exploration at low tide uncovered seagrass meadows and evidence of dugongs in the area. We collected water quality samples in transects from Clairview, the Styx River, and Wild Duck Island for analysis, and provided training to Marissa from Koinmerburra Aboriginal Corporation in water quality monitoring. Koinjmal Traditional Owners Uncle Alan, Jena and Marissa verified cultural heritage sites and discovered new sites including shell middens and a hearth, indicating their Koinjmal ancestors lived on Wild Duck Island. Impressive ancient fig trees, paperbarks and bottle trees stopped us in our tracks to acknowledge the Koinjmal Peoples ongoing spiritual connection to the Country.
Following the Walking the Landscape Workshop and field trips, we debriefed on our findings and identified restoration opportunities to align with the Koinjmal People’s aspirations for Country. We are now working on a holistic five-year implementation strategy for on-ground restoration and capacity building for the Koinjmal People to lead the project into the future. Learnings from this project aim to inspire and be transferable to other Land and Sea Country Groups for future Ridge to Reef Restoration Projects on their Country.