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Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements

Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements following Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie 2017

Severe Tropical Cyclone (STC) Debbie and its associated torrential rainfall and flooding, caused significant impacts across a range of coastal, urban and inland environments in March 2017. Due to the exceptional nature of the event a $35 million Environmental Recovery Package was announced under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) for ex-STC Debbie, jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments.

The Environmental Recovery Package included $15.5 million for riparian and watercourse recovery, enhancement of catchment resilience to future extreme weather events and a reduction of the amount of sediment flowing to the Great Barrier Reef and Moreton Bay.

Site 7 at Nine Mile © Fitzroy Basin Association Inc
Site 7 at Nine Mile

The delivery of the NDRRA for ex-STC Debbie, which concluded on 30 June 2019, was undertaken by the respective regional Natural Resource Management (NRM) bodies across impacted areas and managed by the Department of Environment and Science in collaboration with the Queensland Reconstruction Authority.

On completion of the on-ground works that included streambank reprofiling, the installation of stabilising log pile fields, bank battering and revegetation of riparian zones, the amount of sediment prevented from flowing to the Great Barrier Reef and Moreton Bay was estimated at 290,000 tonnes/year.

The majority of sediment savings (90,000 tonnes/year) was associated with the largest project completed under the package, on the Lower Fitzroy River. Fitzroy Basin Association’s ‘Site 7 at Nine Mile' near Yaamba is considered to be the largest riparian restoration site in Australia.

The North Queensland Monsoon Trough in January-February 2019 provided the first test of the on-ground works implemented under the NDRRA for ex-STC Debbie within the Reef Catchments (Mackay, Whitsunday and Isaac) NRM region. Landholder reports following the Monsoon Trough at six sites across the region (O’Connell River, St Helen’s Creek and Cherry Tree Creek) indicated that environmental damage and loss of productive land would have been exacerbated if the remediation works had not been completed.

The NDRRA for ex-STC Debbie demonstrate the multiple environmental, economic and community benefits of investing in catchment recovery and resilience initiatives to enhance Queensland’s ability to withstand severe disaster events.