Acting together to protect our Pumicestone catchment
  • Last updated:
  • 02 Dec 2022

In 2011, in response to growing land-use pressures and measured ecological decline, the Pumicestone Catchment Network was established to plan and implement a management program for the passage and its catchment.

The Network is led by Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay Regional Councils and includes more than 30 other community, industry, primary producer, natural resource management and State Government organisations. It has developed and is currently implementing an inaugural three-year action plan to address threats to water quality, biodiversity and associated social and economic values.

The Pumicestone Passage is a 45 kilometre long tidal waterway between the mainland and Bribie Island, north of Brisbane. It is highly valued for its extensive mangrove, seagrass and mudflat habitats, aquatic fauna such as fish, turtles and migratory shorebirds and recreational opportunities such as fishing, swimming, boating and stunning natural views. Its 785 square kilometre catchment supports diverse rural land uses, including extensive tracts of forestry and other agricultural production, important areas of bushland and notable established and planned future urban centres.

The tenure and management of the catchment and waterways are complex. The catchment straddles the jurisdictions of Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay Regional Councils and includes areas with a diverse mix of private and public ownership and responsibilities. The Passage itself has formal status and management responsibilities under numerous international, national and state agreements and legislative instruments.

Collaboration between different sectors is therefore pivotal to protecting the diverse values and uses of the Pumicestone Passage and its catchment. The stakeholder network and action plan framework emphasises voluntary cooperation, efficiency and opportunities through partnerships and timely action on contemporary issues. It provides an evolving but successful model that could be applied in other catchments in the region and beyond.


One action in the catchment action plan was to identify and develop a large rehabilitation project. Many areas within the Pumicestone catchment were investigated; however the one eventually chosen provided the best environmental return for investment and linked to the overall biodiversity of the region.

Council is currently implementing this rehabilitation project in the Bells Creek area, next to the northern Passage. The project takes advantage of a historical esplanade 30m wide and over 6km long – bordered by seven adjoining private properties. The public ownership of these lands has enabled negotiations between Council staff and adjacent landowners to achieve good environmental outcomes while maintaining a comfortable level of ownership to the creek by those landowners, which has developed over generations.

While most of the area has reasonable riparian cover there will be approximately 3500 extra trees and shrubs planted to enhance the riparian area. Most of the work being carried out in the project is weeding. Vines, lantana, asparagus fern, slash pines and umbrella trees are some of the many species that required control.

This is a three year project with all primary works carried out in the first year and a two year maintenance period before the areas are incorporated into Councils natural areas network for future maintenance.

Where to from here

The cooperative catchment planning process is working well in the Pumicestone catchment and is intended to be rolled out across all the major catchments of our region. The Maroochy River catchment has been identified as the next in the program.

By focussing on achieving success in short term action periods, the action planning is allowing steering group members to build incrementally towards end goals. This contrasts with the common historical approach of identifying ambitious end goals but falling short of getting there.

Catchment management requires a collective approach and there is a role for everyone. Funding is becoming more contested and limited so there is a need to achieve real successes with all projects and programs.  Within the context of its vision and goals, this planning process allows completed actions to provide a foundation for addressing future priorities – this should be a never ending story.

Article by Graham Webb, Aquatic Ecologist and Peter Armstrong, Catchment Management Officer